A few trips beyond his usual West London stomping grounds reminds Sebastian Gibson of why the Capital is such an exciting place to live
There are times when people you know surprise you: a gesture of selfless kindness, a consideration unwarranted and unjustified, an unexpected thoughtfulness and depth of perception. That’s the joy of friendship and having those we love in our life.
On the other hand, London, this capital of ours, continually reveals its diversity, shades, character and glory. It’s easy to get stuck in our own particular ‘village’ and lack the pioneering spirit to venture from our known terrain.
Mine happens to be west, loosely from Piccadilly to Shepherd’s Bush, as I have an office in Kensington and most of my time spent out is in Notting Hill. That said, Primrose Hill has moved up my list: the quintessential London village with its restaurants, greenery, handsome architecture and attractive populus has become my go-to place, and I regularly walk along the Regent’s Canal to visit it.
I remember a couple of years ago attending the opening of a Contemporary art gallery in Bermondsey. Forget that the egalitarian door-policy had the editor of Italian Vogue waiting in line, the vibe of the whole area was positively electric.
Pictured above: The crowd at White Cube Bermondsey
Medieval cobbled streets and Norman churches housed skinny-jeaned trendies who spilled onto the paving stones and gave the place an energy that put the buzziest of Manhattan neighbourhoods to shame. I noted it, thought I must come back and promised if I’d been ten years younger I’d have moved there. I haven’t yet.
The other night I went to a restaurant in King’s Cross. Being in the property world, I’m well aware of the regeneration that’s occurred in the last ten years there — but stepping off my Vespa and walking past the Guardian building and the art gallery housed within it — I admired what had been done.
I passed fashionable pop-up restaurant The Filling Station (which now seems to have become permanent) and walked through the water-spurting piazza that leads to the imposing Victorian building where I was supping which houses, among others, St Martin’s art college. The piazza area — where young and old ran through fountain jets — housed an outdoor television screen showing Andy Murray upholding Britain’s hopes at Wimbledon.
Pictured above: The fountains at Granary Square in Kings Cross
As the sun set, there was an optimism in the air, made more concrete when the friend I dined with told me some very happy-making news. We admired the tin-foil stripes adorning the building and enjoyed a negroni en-plein air.
That’s the thing about London; it’s constantly rejuvenating, reinventing and surprising us. There’s a dynamism and vitality in the city.
While last weekend I walked through beautiful Paris admiring the majesty of it — the golden domes of Les Invalides, the symmetry of the Palais Royal, IM Pei’s pyramid inviting us into one of the world’s greatest museums and the early seventeenth century Places des Vosges of the Marais — I was awed.
Landmarks like St Paul's, as well as less famous ones, convince Sebastian Gibson that nowhere beats London
It’s impressive, without question, but the intimacy of London, the regeneration, the parks, the mélange, St Paul’s and the Mall, and all the imperfections too, somehow impress me just that little bit more.