Heading to London from Brighton seemed like it would be easy enough, however when I arrived at the train station I soon found that service to London had been cancelled due to some sort of security issue. All was not lost however as one of the friendly train attendants was able to help me figure out a route into the city that required a variety of transfers.
Eventually I made my way to east London and specifically to Cheshire Street where my friend Blair and her husband Patrick live. Although she’s originally from South Carolina, I know Blair from Chicago where she attended the School of the Art Institute’s graduate program as a painter. At some point Blair left to study abroad for a semester and met Patrick, fast forward a few years and they are married and living together in London.
Coincidentally my visit to London coincided with the Bermondsey Street Festivalin which Blair was showing some of her artwork. Unfortunately though it also coincided with Patrick being out of town for a friend’s bachelor weekend.
After resting a bit at Blair’s flat we made our way over to the gallery for an opening cocktail reception. There I met several of her friends and other artists participating in the show. I had thrilling discussion with one gentleman, Alex, on the artistic merits of digital tools for artwork and the case for and against, as well the brilliant Japanese animation film Akira.
The next day Blair and I set out with several of her friends to the actual Street Festival but after an hour or two I decided to split off from the group to venture out and explore London. I figured I would take the time to get to know Gowalla‘s newly revised iPhone app and it’s Gowalla Guides feature. For those unfamiliar with Gowalla, it’s a location based social networking service that previously was built around “checking-in” to a venue similar to Foursquare, which I wrote about when it debuted at SXSW ’09.
Recently Gowalla decided to concede the check-in war and revamp their app in a different direction that features city guides and recommendations of things to do. I plan on discussing this in greater depth in a separate entry eventually seeing as I was a big fan of the old app I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give the new one a go.
First things first I head off to find the Apple Store Regent Street. Yes, I’m a nerd, I know but in all seriousness Apple stores are a godsend to travelers. Free Wi-Fi, clean bathrooms, water fountains and usually (but not always) a place to sit down. Apple is also very particular about where they build their stores and the architectural designs of them, so if you can find a city’s local Apple store you can usually assure that you’ll not only see a beautiful structure but you’ll also find a lively shopping district with good (but likely expensive) places to eat.
Once I felt I had caught up with everything I needed at the store I popped open the Gowalla guide to take a look at what was nearby. When I saw that London’s famous Picadilly Circus was a short walk away I head off in that direction, from there made my way to Green Park and eventually Buckingham Palace.
The Palace is a sight to behold that unfortunately was closed by 6pm when I arrived, but I was still able to see the guards from the gate, talk to some of the assigned police officers and get a bunch of great shots from the monument across from it.
I wandered on further through the Palace parks and noticed I was able to see the famous “London Eye” from the park and decided to walk towards it, eventually discovering Big Ben and the bridge between them. The area around Big Ben was very alive with street performers and tourists and I got a good laugh from them before I decided to take the advice of Jim Binder via Twitter and caught a cab over to The Old Red Cow for a bite and a drink. Sure enough Jim’s suggestion was spot on and The Old Red Cow was a cozy bar with a great atmosphere, a friendly bartender and a heck of a burger. Shortly after that I head back via the Underground and called it a night.