Walking along the Thames at night

A Whirlwind Day of New Experiences in London

  |   England   |   17 Comments

Someone said the other day that London had nothing new to offer. That it was boring, stuck in the 1990’s, with no exciting ideas. Nothing could be further from the truth. London has been for decades and still is on the cutting edge for new experiences.

Every time I went back to London, I was excited to be back. It has always been my most favourite city. My love affair with London ran deep. It came in all shapes and sizes.

The sound of the underground. The rush of the people hurrying under grey skies with their umbrellas wide open. The blinking lights and the jet planes, the black Victorian cast-iron fences. The faces of people, so pretty in their different colours, their earnestness, and the dreams that mirrored in their eyes.

I was on my way to meet my friend, Coralie from Tea Time in Wonderland, to spend some time together in this exhilarating and uncompromising city. To have a laugh and have a good time. To get drunk with new memories and shared excitement. To escape our everyday worries of life and work and kids and the future, if only for a few hours, and recharge our batteries.

Effortlessly, we got sucked into a whirlwind of experiences that only a city like London could give you.
Quirky details

On a Quest to Find the Mushroom Macchiato

My friend’s message came while I was still on the train from the airport to my hotel. “Let’s try Curators Coffee Gallery”, it said. A small cafe in the shopping precinct around Oxford street. Only recently, the Evening Standard had run a piece on their latest addition to the menu, coffee with a mushroom consommé on the side. A “mushroom macchiato”. For a true umami experience.

It sounded crazy, it made us curious, it was a story that was simply irresistible.

Unfortunately, when we arrived we realised that the article had been more or less made up. Nobody in the cafe knew what we were talking about. Yet, it said a lot about London that we believed this fabricated story. In London, anything could be possible, even a cafe trying to combine mushrooms with coffee. And who knows, it was not unlikely that this new recipe was now to be added to the menu, thanks to customer request. Because we people are hungry for more, and Londoner businesses are happy to give things a go.

To compensate us for our slight disappointment we settled for green tea chai, and banana bread with a sugary crunch, and a brie frittata. It may not have been a mushroom macchiato but you can trust that you won’t find these items on a provincial menu either.
Green Tea Chai Latte

Flying High in Virtual Reality at One Aldwych

From here we went on to One Aldwych, a luxury hotel in the vicinity to a number of stage plays and musicals on the edge of Covent Garden. Their Charlie the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea in the Lobby Bar was almost famous with Londoners who like to take their children out to for a special treat. Thanks to golden eggs and chocolate caramel milk, parents could easily transport their children into a world full of magic and wonder.

In fact, many meals and drinks on the menu were themed with a reference to nearby productions, preparing theatre-goers for the show by easing them into the evening with a cocktail or two. We opted for The Origin – a cocktail that promised not just a new concoction of flavours but also a virtual reality experience that went along with the tasting experience.

The staff assisted us as we donned the virtual reality headset and the headphones, and while the two of us were sitting in the stylish Edwardian yet contemporary Lobby Bar of One Aldwych we were suddenly transported away from London. Gone were the hotel, gone was the city, gone were the people. Sights and sounds painted a new reality around us. Like an eagle we flew over the Scottish highlands, pristine and beautiful. To our surprise, another sensation then tickled our senses. We smelled the fragrant smoke of cherry wood, perfectly in tune with the pictures in front of our eyes.

When we took off the headsets, a rich and smokey cocktail awaited us, made of Dalmore 12 year old whiskey, cherry liqueur, chocolate bitters. The smoke that we had smelled while we were flying over the Scottish highlands was still sitting in the bottle, adding an aura of mystic and mystery to the drink.
Virtual Reality Cocktail at One Aldwych

The Thames Soundtrack of Strolling Couples

From One Aldwych we found our way down to Tate Modern. The sun had started setting, switching on the lights of the city and changing the colours of the sky to a deeper blue. Crossing the River Thames via Waterloo Bridge we could see illuminated barges travelling down the river in slow motion. An army of cranes were poking their arms out into the sky, their tips highlighted by a single red light. Everywhere, new buildings were emerging, changing London’s skyline at a neck-breaking speed.

The river transported the noise of the traffic across the water, an everlasting humming that never stopped. It was our soundtrack for our walk to Tate Modern as we descended down to the waterfront sidewalk on the Southbank, towards the Oxo Tower. Couples strolled along the river under blue fairy light trees, relaxing from a busy day out in the city. So many people here on a Sunday night, taking in the views of a city that never sleeps.
The red glowing London Eye

Mesmerised by the big Swinging Pendulum

At Tate Modern we had only a little time but it was enough to see the current supersized installation One, Two, Three, Swing! by artist ensemble Superflex. A giant silver pendulum suspended some ten metres from the ceiling of the Turbine Hall, swung precariously over visitors’ heads. Mesmerising, silently, with unmatched elegance. We could see our mirror images in the giant silver ball as we were standing in the gallery. Visitors were sitting and lying on the striped floor under the pendulum, watching the eternal swinging motion in this giant space.

Further down the hall, the atmosphere was different. On sets of giant swings visitors young and old were enjoying the experience of swinging through space themselves. They squealed as they catapulted themselves up into the air. Tried new techniques. Took pictures – feet thrown into the air, hair flying high. Adults turning into children, children seeing their parents in a whole new light.

Just a few steps from Tate Modern we were sucked into the rooms of another free art gallery in the base of the OXO Tower, gallery@oxo. Fascinated by the glowing displays of discarded technical equipment, re-arranged to create fantastic three-dimensional futuristic miniature cities, we stepped into the small art space. Recycled Future by Oskar OK Krajewski made us think about the importance of recycling, and how we wanted to see our future unfold.
Swing exhibition at Tate Modern

Cocktails and New Street Art

The evening drew to a close. One last stop, a few steps into the warmth of a cocktail bar at the Mondrian London Hotel. The cushioned benches glowed in a colour between pink and old rose, reminiscent of bubble gum and candy floss. We ordered a variety of cocktails, listened to the conversations of the other guests – discussing elective beauty procedures in Germany, watched the blinking lights of city through the panoramic windows.

Before we returned home we walked the street art tunnel at Waterloo Station, Leake Street. An open art concept, orchestrated by the city, displaying a colourful palette of street art and graffiti, some of it so fresh it was actually being created as we walked past.

Street Art Tunnel near Waterloo Station

London, you had outdone yourself yet again.

Someone once said that London had nothing new to offer. How wrong they were.

Because, as someone else once said, if you are tired of London you are tired of life. What you make of London is up to you. The city is not responsible for giving you a good time.

Living in London, or visiting from time to time? If you would like to know what’s going on on weekends in London, have a look at my friend Coralie’s blog where she posts a new London weekend update every week.

You might also want to read this

A Long Weekend With Kids in London

Travelling back in time at Lacock Village

On the hunt for street art in Shoreditch, and some life lessons along the way

Cocktails at Mondrial London

Silke Elzner

AUTHOR - Silke Elzner

Hello! My name is Silke. Happiness and Things is a travelogue about amazing European destinations and beautiful places around the world. I believe that beauty is even in the smallest things and I want to inspire you to see the world differently. Read more about it here.

  • Coralie Grassin | Nov 14, 2017 at 22:21

    Thank you for your kind words 🙂

    London were a person, it would be a wonderful dancer, waltzing you aroung its classical sight, then spinning you around to futuristic bar, leaving you breathless…

    Let’s what kind of flashbob the city can put up for your next visit 😉

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 15, 2017 at 1:53

      What an apt comparison. Yes, indeed – London is indeed like a dancer… always in motion… always following its own beat…

  • Lucy | Nov 19, 2017 at 10:06

    I don’t think I would ever get bored of London! There are always new exhibitions, pop up restaurants and bars and new attractions and I am from very near London. I have not been to One Aldwych and I will be going there now to check out the virtual reality experience with a cocktail! Sounds so fun!

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 20, 2017 at 1:20

      Lucy, trust me, this will be a great experience! The smokiness really was quite unexpected. Alternatively, The Circle of Life has a nice subtle banana flavour without the fuzziness or overly sweetness of a banana. Looks pretty too!

  • Fiona Maclean | Nov 20, 2017 at 8:42

    The swing sounds a bit like the slides which were once installed in the same space. Things like that do make a mark on our memories. I do love London – it’s my home town and I’m delighted you share my passion

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 20, 2017 at 18:10

      Thanks Fiona. Just had a quick look on your blog – so many cool London based ideas!

  • Holly | Nov 21, 2017 at 13:47

    I really like the street art and colorful stairs. Very cool. My kind of places to check out.

  • Paige | Nov 21, 2017 at 16:34

    This was absolutely a day of new experiences. I think a mushroom macchiato sounds a little gross, but worth trying. Too bad the article wasn’t real! I wonder how many people went in search of that coffee only to find out it was fake. Haha.

  • Elena | Nov 22, 2017 at 0:21

    I would love to try a “mushroom macchiato.” I wonder if somebody would come up with such concoction one day. Too bad the article was bogus. Not sure about virtual reality+cocktail. I might prefer the latter one alone, but the street art tunnel is right up my alley.

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 22, 2017 at 1:37

      Hi Elena, I really would love for you to give this virtual reality cocktail a try. The way the smoke hits your nostrils at just the right moment – pure magic!

  • Claudia | Nov 22, 2017 at 4:25

    I loved our time in London some years ago, and I’m longing to return. Your suggestions for Tate Modern and checking out that street art tunnel are must dos. And of course, I’m always up for a great virtual-reality cocktail. 😉

  • Rosemary | Nov 22, 2017 at 4:52

    There is indeed always something new to do in London. The virtual experience sounds like so much fun and with the whiskey cocktail to top it off! I love Tate Modern and it is always fun to explore and visit. There is so much to do and see in London and these are great options.

  • Peter Korchnak | Nov 22, 2017 at 14:23

    I can’t imagine a day in London being anything but exhilarating. Though I’d probably end up watching the big pendulum for hours – there’s something very mesmerizing about pendulums.

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 22, 2017 at 18:20

      Hi Peter, Yes indeed. Very calming experience, this soundless swinging motion. Could have watched the pendulum for hours, but no time to stop!

  • Cat | Nov 22, 2017 at 15:34

    Too bad that mushroom macchiato doesn’t exist, it would have been interesting to try. But your virtual reality experience seems fun!

  • Jessica | Nov 23, 2017 at 10:32

    I admit that London is not my favorite city however, I think it’s unfair for people to say that there’s nothing new. I’ve traveled there several times and always have new experiences. The cocktails at the Mondrian sound fabulous. Must add to my list for next time.

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 23, 2017 at 18:38

      Very knowledgable staff too at the Mondrian. I asked them for a cocktail to fit my mood and the buzz of the evening and they came back with just the right cocktail.

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