Barbican Exploration

I do not know London well. Despite I spent more than half a year here, I visited only very must see places in the center. Now I have some free time and I can use it to deepen my knowledge of this city.

Last Saturday morning I woke up at 9 a.m. (remember the “leave at least at 11 a.m.” principle), got my oatmeal from the microwave oven, and opened google maps. I was in the regions around Green park, Piccadilly, Bank. I was in Liverpool street. How about to fill the gap and check the Barbican? OK, let’s go there.

I took a DLR to Bank and went a little bit North. The plan was to go through the region with a curvy way. That is, first I go West, then a little bit North, then East, then North again , West, etc. I would be able to see all the stuff they have in this region.

It was sunny, calm and beautiful, wonderful conditions for a walk.

However, there is a strange thing about me. When we chat with my friends and they describe their impressions about the city I can hear, “Yesterday I was in Notting Hill. It was amazing! These completely British style houses, gardens. I loved it. I definitely shall live there one day!” Or, when we walked from the Green park to the Piccadilly circus, “I think this is my favorite street in the world. Look at it. It is very beautiful. These buildings. This style. These windows…”

I’d rather not say that I don’t have a sense of beauty. I do have it. When I watch at these buildings I understand that they are grand, that they are magnificent, that they have their style. But I do not feel emotional satisfaction. The same is with parks. But my friends use such intense words to describe their experience as if they would be happy to contemplate these houses for the whole day. My friends walk to look at these buildings. My walks serve different purpose. I want to know the city, to be able to orientate, to connect different regions in my mind map. I’d like to feel the diversity of different regions as well.

I reached the museum of London, on the North of St. Paul’s, and decided to give it a chance. I started with the museum shop. I really like to buy small and interesting things even if they are completely useless but if they are nice and are of good quality. Museum shops should be good for that kind of purchases. However, usually they sell goods of poor quality, and therefore I do not buy anything. The museum of London was not an exception. Then I spent five minutes in the exposition hall and decided to continue my journey.

I left the museum and headed east, toward the Liverpool street. On the way I noticed some piece of contemporary art. It consisted of two rusty rails that stood vertically were connected at the top. There was a nice square with stairs. Some people were having their lunches. I was not hungry so I went for a krispy kreame doughnut and a latte.

It was my second or third walk. During the previous ones, just after I had a meal, I noticed a Franco Manca pizzeria. One day I and my friend went out. We were walking around the Holborn station, headed to a craft beer pub nearby. He said that he read some ranking of pizzerias in London (of course I was 100% sure that this list is a complete bullshit, but nonetheless) and that the one at the right hand from us was the number two. It called A Home Slice. I tried it and it was delicious. Thin and creamy, with cheese and tomatoes. It was not cheap but it was good. Then he said that the number one was called Franco Manca. After that night I heard this name a number of times but never tried it. So, it was a little bit discouraging to see the best pizzeria in London just after I got a meal. And it happened two times the last month, and it happened again.

I went North for a while and turned west, toward the Barbican. Gradually tall modern buildings made of glass changed to traditional three-storeyed shabby houses. Then I noticed something on the horizon, some strange and tall buildings. They were made of dark brown brick, with sharp angles. It looked aggressive, industrial, monstrous, and ugly. I opened a map, it was the Barbican. There was a mark “Barbican center” on the map. I entered inside. It appeared to be a cultural center, there was a cinema with non-that-standard movies, a theater and a museum. Traditionally I started from the museum shop. It looked like they were proud of these tall ugly buildings. They were everywhere: on the mugs, on T-shirts, black-and-white photos and many more. At the same time, there were a lot of funny baubles completely unrelated to the buildings. Strikingly, they were of good quality. I really liked the kaleidoscope, and I bought it.

I sat at the bench and played with my purchase for a while. A voice from above announced that a dance show will start in five minutes. I carefully put my toy into the bag and headed to the cashbox.

“Do you have something that starts in the next 15 minutes?” I asked.

“Yes, there is a contemporary dance show starting just now.”

“Are there any good tickets left?”

“Yes, we have a nice tickets, just in the center.”

“Should be expensive?”

“20 pounds.”

“I’ll take it.”

I entered the hall. It was made in dark colors, at the same time the lights were everywhere, so there was some kind or contrast. The hall was full. I reached my place and sat. The lights come off. “Phew, I’m just in time.” I thought.

And then it started. First thirty minutes I sat with my jaw felt down. The sound was nice. There were a lot of people on the stage. Most of them were children of different age. And they really delivered the performance. Their movements were synchronous and precise. Sometimes there was some humor. It was amazing. Then at some moment, the boss came to the stage and had a talk. As I got it, they started 10 years ago in some not very good East London region and now they are more-or-less famous. This show was held to celebrate the 10th anniversary.

After an hour there was an intermission. “OK, I am in the theater, in the theater people are supposed to drink champagne.” I concluded. Hopefully the bar was next to the hall. I grabbed a glass of champagne and a small desert. I felt good. I felt the spirit of adventures. Soon the voice called us back.

The first part of the show consisted of a series of small and unrelated pieces. The whole second part was one big dance. At some point I got bored, because it was all the same with small variations. The main guy destructed hives of evil in different parts of the world using his dance as a weapon. When it ended I left the hall and got to the inner yard of the center. It was made in Chinese style, some water, fountains. Everything was made of this dark, as if it was burned by flames of hell, brick. From this point of view, the tall buildings did not look that bad. They looked harmonious.

There was a Barbican kitchen. I ordered some food and a glass of prosecco (no champagne here). The life seemed not that bad. I had a lovely show, ate decent food and beheld a nice view.

After it I continued my curvy walk. At some point I saw a graveyard. A graveyard. In the central London. According to the information stand at the entrance, Daniel Defoe laid somewhere there.

Gradually I lost my excitement and I decided to fuel it with a pint of hoppy IPA in some local pub. I almost reached the Old street station and I knew a good place there. The pint did not help much. It was getting dark and cold. I covered a big distance, probably I should go home soon. I remembered that I saw a brewery with a bar near the Angel station. And it was not far from me. I packed my stuff and went for it. There was not anything interesting during this part of the trip. Except that I noticed another ugly building that looked like a lamp factory from my home town. I googled, it appeared to be City university of London.

I reached the bar, it was quite nice. They had a number of IPAs. I tried three and got one of it. However, place was crowded and guys at the bar were not very friendly to a stranger like me. So I finished it quickly and took a subway to home.

It was a long walk and amazing day. I felt that I had three days vacations. Next week I’ll start from Angel.

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