Sometimes when you’ve lived in London for a while, you can forget exactly what makes it a place of such magic and wonder to the millions who flock here each year. You know the things you love that are local to you but your memories of places like the sun scorched Southbank, the marvelously chaotic Trafalgar Square or South Kensington’s museum mile can become as hazy as the skyline on a hot summers evening which is why, wanting to show my utter adoration for my capital and fervent with the desire to remind myself of just why it’s the greatest city in the world, I booked in for breakfast at the Swan and a tour of the Globe Theatre this weekend. Given the turmoil that’s been forced upon London over the past few weeks, doing something touristy and mainstream appealed hugely to me this weekend – I found myself starving for a reminder of the history & the magnificence of a city that will not be broken into submission.
Sat right beside the Globe in the heart of London’s Southbank, the Swan is a gorgeous, bright & airy restaurant, perfect for brunching at window tables lit by streams of sunshine, ideal for lunching as you overlook the passers-by who Instagram the thatched roof & white walls of the neighbouring theatre and impeccably placed for dining as the sun goes down and the tourist throngs of the day are gently washed away by couples enjoying the romance of the river.
Breakfast here is a simple affair; the menu is small but quite lovely and it offers everything from eggs to pancakes, brioche to kippers, pastries to a full English. My tip would be to go for the in-house, home-made muesli which comes loaded with dried apricots & cranberries and nestled beside coconut yoghurt & Bermondsey honey or Greek yoghurt & berry compote. Take a friend, get both and split a portion of the toasted Borough sourdough while you’re there because that too, my friends, is also excellent.
Service is low key but friendly and whilst booth style tables along the windows are glorious for people watching, the long communal tables down the centre of the room would be a great shout for a group of friends needing a spot in which to hunker down and brunch like (very relaxed) kings.
This is not a local spot for me but it’s charming enough to make me totally jump on the bus and mosey down here of a weekend for some more of that sourdough and people watching; it’s blend of history & modernity is really something special and at the moment, when it feels like the ever defiant spirit of London could do with a little hand holding and spirit soothing, enjoying a place like this is one of the best ways to do just that.
When I moved back to London a few years ago, getting a £5 standing ticket to watch a play at the Globe in the same way that they did in centuries past was one of the things I was keen to do. It felt like the sort of experience you should do once, whether you’re a visitor to or a native of the capital and I had an awesome time with scores of other people who felt exactly the same. It’s probably not the way I’m going to watch every 3 hour performance of Shakespeare going forward but definitely worth ticking off that bucket list.
Running at roughly an hour long but with unlimited access to the exhibition and the gift-shop included in the ticket price, the tour takes you up, into and around the theatre auditorium itself and if you’re lucky enough to get Lauren, the fabulous land girl-meets-Queen Vic regular who showed us round, I can guarantee you’ll have an extra brilliant time. Droll, informative and interesting, she really elevated the tour from ‘oh that’s interesting’ to ‘oh my god, they used to do what?!’ FYI, that gift-shop has some cracking things in it – a good place to remember when that Christmas list rears its festive head again in a few months.
Memorabilia and artifacts line the walls in the cool, calm interior exhibit with everything on show from Mark Rylance’s diary to costumes that your fella can practice cross-dressing in should the need to do so arise to recordings of legendary actors bringing the words of the bard to life. There’s a huge amount of detail as well about the geographical and social landscapes of London in the time of Shakespeare which makes it even more fascinating when you emerge blinking into the daylight of the Southbank and are greeted with buskers, air stream food trucks and skateboarders instead of the gentry and the peasants you’ve just been reading about.
Honestly, be you local or be you international, I cannot recommend enough that you get a ticket for a play here but come along a few hours earlier to enjoy everything there is on offer. Grab a bite to eat at the excellent Swan Restaurant next door, spend an hour taking the tour, while away a second hour ambling around the exhibition and then take your seat on a wooden pew and enjoy some of the finest words ever written under the stars of the finest city on the planet.