London: Leake Street Arches

Leake Street Arches in the South Bank area of London

What if I told you that within The Square Mile there existed a tunnel where one could go and – legally – graffiti ups the walls?

Pondering my options for my second full day [to myself] in London, I came across info for the Leake Street Arches. It was about a 40 minute walk from my hotel, not too bad (I could also have taken the Tube had I not wanted to walk). I was intrigued, it was not the usual tourist site, and best of all: it was FREE. What did I have to lose besides a bit of time? I laced up and got walking!

Out hotel was near St. Paul’s Cathedral. From there to Leake Street I really only needed to follow the walking path next to the Thames until I neared Waterloo Bridge. After that, it was another 5-10 minute walk to the tunnels. It began to mist just as I grew near…perfect timing! Into the arches I went.

My photos do not do justice to the artwork I viewed. I added some of my favorite photos (see below), but it’s an ever-changing artscape. The rules allow that artwork already there can be painted over, so most likely this already looks very different than when I was there. Per the rules: “Art is by its nature live and evolving.”

Banksy – famous internationally for his street art – was one of those at the forefront pushing for this place to be transformed from a dark tunnel to a vibrant space filled with art. He organized the Cans Festival in May 2008. In three days he witnessed his plans come to fruition. I don’t believe any of his own artwork is still present, but he used to have some pieces there.

However, another world-famous street artist, Blek Le Rat, added a piece in August 2023. He was the precursor to Banksy in the street art scene, and it is claimed that he influenced Banksy. Is this true? Likely, but I do not know for sure. What I do know is that his artwork now has a piece of plexiglass over it to prevent it from being painted over. I guess not all art there evolves. Perhaps it is merely a temporary reprise from other eager artists looking for space.

Blek Le Rat
Artwork of Blek Le Rat, installed August 2023
Blek Le Rat
Calling Card of Blek Le Rat

More artwork that grabbed me:

Artist clearing a space so he can begin
This one brought to mind my grandson, who loves cookies
Artist contemplating…

Of note: there are classes offered that bring you to the tunnels, provide you with paints and coverings to protect your clothing, and let you get to it. I do not believe you need to be with a group to paint there, but it does sound fun! I may have to give this a go my next visit. I highly recommend this attraction should you find yourself in London.

I wandered about for a bit, admiring the artwork and watching some of the artists at work. I then headed a couple of streets over to an Italian restaurant to feed my hungry soul. Because one must eat.

Until next time, Buon Appetito!

Tagliatelle con ragu di agnello

London Called…I Answered

London Borough Market
London’s Borough Market

This past Sunday I returned from a brief visit to London. It had been nine years since my last visit…NINE YEARS! I wasn’t sure what to expect in the way of changes to one of my favorite cities.

Turns out, there were a lot of changes, but quite a bit was as I remembered. Certainly the city scape has grown. There is an increase in the number of skyscrapers. Crowds were higher than I’ve ever seen during previous visits; however, it was the week following Easter Sunday. Schools were on holiday, and families were traveling. I was in the Borough Market one morning and found myself caught up in a crowd where I literally could not move unless and until the crowd moved. I felt claustrophobic and briefly panicked when I realized that at that moment I had no control over where and when I would move. I’ve never felt that before. Thankfully, the crowd shifted enough that I was able to find a narrow opening and slip out. I immediately headed to lunch at one of my favorites: Wright Brothers Oyster and Porterhouse, where I managed to calm myself with a glass of bubbly and a sea bream carpaccio, paired with a side of one of the most delicious soda breads I’ve tasted. I made some tasting notes so I can try to replicate the soda bread one of these days.

Sea Bream Carpaccio, Soda Bread and Bubbly

Before the “sardine incident” occurred, I was able to make my way through most of the market and even managed to purchase some spices from Spice Mountain. I’ve brought back various spices and flavored salts from them in the past, and I was happy to see they were still in business.

The Borough Market itself has evolved with the times. It is even more touristy now than it was last time I visited. And there are a lot of new restaurants and shops that have popped up around that area. I worried it had changed too much, or that the changes would be so drastic they would alter the whole experience. For many that might be the case, but I felt the essence of the market remained, despite the changes. I do hope it isn’t normally so overrun with crowds. That would certainly be a game-changer for me.

Below are some of the images I captured during my wanderings:

Paella…So large it took 2 men to move it!!

The breads: Carb heaven!