Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Feeling a bit guilty about my slagging off of London earlier this week, so here's my favourite things about the city:

1. Camden Market. Like no other market. While London can still trade on its swinging 60s image, it's only really at Camden where anything approaching this can be found. It's a bizarre hotchpotch of retro clothing stores, ethnic food, punk S/M gear, hemp lollypops, cool music blaring out from every shop, almost every over-the-top fashion on display and a disjointed sense that anything is possible. It's much, much bigger than it first appears, and it's possible to get totally lost in a network of alternative consumer heaven. With stalls by the names of Dolly Rockers and Cyber Dog, it's a place that Austin Powers could host his next song-and-dance extravaganza at.

2. Old Compton Street. Unofficially, I don't like it very much, but any place where same-sex couples can walk around hand-in-hand and be greeted with boredom rather than giggles or outrage can't be that bad.

3. The Kings Road, Chelsea - Sloane Square. It's all posh birds with blonde hair and shopping bags. Poor people are simply not allowed to walk down this street. Also contains the site of Monsoon - which I like to think inspired the Edina Monsoon character in Absolutely Fabulous. Try one of the restaurants and be intimidated by the weird food and prices...

4. The Vauxhall Tavern. Home of Duckie on Saturday Nights, which is run by the very fabulous Amy Lamé. Duckie is a gay nightclub of performance art, where it's OK to wear glasses and be skinny. It specialises in themed evenings and audience participation and it's a welcome respite from everywhere else.

5. The National Portrait Gallery. Big enough to get around without wearing you out. There's usually something good on, and if not, you can always gasp in horror at the weird head statue of Zandra Rhodes.

6. The Ironmonger Row Baths. Old Street tube. One of the few existing Turkish baths left in the country, and you're far less likely to be hassled by people wanting to look at your bits and bobs.

7. The River Thames. Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, that big Ferris Wheel, The National Theatre. London actually looks quite pretty from there.

8. The Ministry of Truth Building. Bloomsbury. It's actually called Senate House and was used as the Ministry of Information in WWII and was George Orwell's insipiration for the Ministry of Truth in 1984. It also appeared in the film. It's very imposing, cream coloured and grand - and I always like to think that somewhere inside, Winston Smith is still plotting against Big Brother.

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