If you had the option to have a day out in London, what would you do? This was the question I posed on my Facebook page last week. I was looking for some last minute birthday inspiration which would entertain me, my four-year-old daughter and my husband (I figured the baby would go with the flow). I narrowed it down to London’s Southbank and we started our day (which by the time we got there was afternoon) at London’s Tate Modern.
Of course, it decided to rain. All day. It was quite the contrast to last year’s birthday when we were in the sunny tea lands of Sri Lanka. But despite the rain, there was nowhere I’d rather be than in my home city. It would take a lot more than rain to dampen my birthday!
It has been a while since I visited the Tate Modern. An art gallery which is almost impossible to see in one go. It is easy to get overwhelmed so we decided to visit just two floors which had some areas of interest for Mrs T as well.
As soon as we entered the building there was a buzzing light display complete with loud noises which periodically resonated through the building. We headed to floor 4 to begin where there was a Living Cities exhibition (rather appropriate given my City Tripping blog linky).
On the floor in the first room was a black rubber map of Beirut, Beirut Caoutchouc. Visitors can walk on it to have a personal, immersive experience with the artwork and city it represents. Something else caught me eye though. It was a table with buildings which looked like they were made of sand. Upon closure inspection, I discovered it was cooked cous cous. Untitled (Ghardaïa) 2009 is a scale model of the ancient city of Ghardaïa in Algeria by the artist Kader Attia.
In one of the alcoves was a series of films detailing artists’ relationship with the city they live and work in. We walked the streets of Bangalore with Sheela Gowda and I got half-way through watching Ai Weiwei talk about Beijing before my daughter got bored! Darn!
It was interesting exhibition which, as you would expect, prompted me to think about my own city experience and what London means to me. I have to say, certainly for my birthday this year, there is nowhere else I would rather spend it than in London with my family and close friends. As I have written about before, it is a city which is special to me.
Having promised my daughter a giant spider (suggested by one of the helpful Tate staff), we headed to the Louise Bourgeouis exhibit. The late French artist looks at themes such as family, life and motherhood. Inside the body of the bronze and granite spider, which Mrs T walked under, was a large egg.
There were also bodies and legs hanging from the ceiling.
Having seen enough dangling limbs, we headed to floor 10. I’d never been to the viewing area at the top of the Tate Modern before. After waiting a while to get on an elevator, we made it. Even on a rainy day, the views were impressive.
After soaking up some of the city, it was back down to floor three where we were meeting my friend Emma. She was having a look around the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition (an extra £18.50 for non-members). We gave it a miss and instead went to the ‘performer and participant’ exhibits.
A collection of installations from various artists working between the 1960s and 90s, many invited you to participate. In one case you were asked to step into spotlights which set off short films on large screens. The exhibit which appealed to my daughter was an area with building blocks. Perfect for when a young child’s attention span starts to wane. She was very happy building a ‘castle’ and a ‘church’ with the large wooden blocks and could have done so happily for the next half an hour or so.
If we had time, I would have liked to have seen more of the Anywhen exhibition in the Turbine Hall but with time running out we crossed over to the Boiler House area of the building where there was a wall of orange carpet which you can touch, make patterns with your hands or simply have your photo taken against.
Then it was time for lunch! We had booked The Swan restaurant at the Shakespeare’s Globe, somewhere I had wanted to go for a while. Unbelievably I still haven’t been to a performance at the Globe theatre…one of the many London activities on my list! You can also have a tour of the theatre.
We had a fantastic roast lunch, the obligatory birthday champagne (and wine) topped off by a surprise cake made by my very talented friend – thank you Emma!
The Swan had a children’s menu and it was one of those loud bustling restaurants which means you don’t worry too much if your child is making a bit of a racket.
It also had great views which Mrs T and I had a chat about, from the boats on the river to some brightly coloured umbrellas. The staff at the Swan were really friendly and helpful too.
We wandered home a little late (for Mrs T anyway), taking in the lights and relative quiet of the city at night. My daughter proclaimed it was ‘the best birthday party ever’. Bless. Spending my first birthday as a family of four in London with friends was certainly something special. It wasn’t exactly a party but there was cake and in my daughter’s eyes that is all that mattered.
Have you been to the Tate Modern recently? What would you do on a day trip to London?