London walks: Discovering Soho

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    London walks, Spotlight
    Von Lorraine Mallinder

    Welcome to part two of our “London walks” series. This time, we take you to see places connected to education and entertainment.

     

    2.15 p.m. — A walk in Soho

    From Covent Garden, I shoot for the interestingly named Seven Dials. In the middle of this junctionKreuzungjunction linking seven roads is a sundialSonnenuhr-sundial column. It’s thought that this was the location shown in 18th-century satirist William Hogarth’s print Gin Lane, a place of ruin and damnation. Today, it’s filled with designer boutiques and busy bars and cafes.

    From Shaftesbury Avenue, I loop over Soho Square Gardens and head westwards towards Carnaby Street, birthplace of the mods, skinheads, punks and new romantics. Its cool tailor shops have been replaced by big-name fashion stores, but it’s still worth a visit. After all, this is where The Kinks’ “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” hung out.

     

    3.30 p.m. — Liberty

    Located in Great Marlborough Street, this is no ordinary department storeKaufhausdepartment store. Dating from the 1920s, the great mockPseudo-mock Tudor building was constructed with the timber(Bau)Holz, Balkentimbers of two 19th-century battleships. Look up from the grand entrance and you’ll see a golden weathervaneWetterfahneweathervane modelled on The Mayflower, the ship that transported Pilgrims to the New World in 1620.

    Unapologeticallyoffen; kompromisslosUnapologetically eccentric, the store started as a tribute to the magical bazaars of the East. This was where the avant-garde came to buy rugkleiner Teppich, Läuferrugs from the Khyber Pass or hand-painted vases from Tokyo.

    Wandering up the winding staircases, through wood-panelled rooms with open fireplaces, the wooden floorboardsHolzdielefloorboards to creakknarrencreaking beneath your feet, you really do feel as if you were aboard a great ship docked on the streets of London. Be sure to make time for a cream tea (UK)Nachmittagstee mit Gebäckcream tea in Arthur’s Restaurant on the second floor.

     

    4.15 p.m. — The “Mile of Style”

    I follow the great curve of Regent Street, the border between wealthy Mayfair to the west and formerly filthyverdreckt, schmuddeligfilthy Soho to the east. Designed by architect John Nash, it was named after the then prince regent, who ruled in his father’s place after the king was deemederachten, haltendeemed mentally unfit for the job.

    Today, his street is the “Mile of Style”, its curved buildings housing global designer names and lesser-known brandMarkebrands like Penhaligon’s, the place to visit for a tailor-mademaßgeschneidert; individuelltailor-made signatureunverwechselbarsignature perfume.

     

    5 p.m. — Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square

    Tourists come to Piccadilly Circus to watch the gigantic illuminated advertising boards. There’s something hypnotizing about the megawatt glowGlühen, Leuchtenglow, which adds a strange, otherworldly sheenGlanz, Schimmersheen to the early evening light.

    From here, Leicester Square is but a short distance away. Lit up in red, fuchsia and blue, this is the location of red-carpet film premieres. Sadly, Michael Fassbender is not around this evening. Instead, there’s a killer clown to stalkeinherstolzierenstalking the square with a bloody sawSägesaw, his head attached by a chain to his gold boots. Then, there’s the girl in Victorian dress, a teddy bear balanced on her head. And right in the middle of it all, on a wall surrounding a statue of Shakespeare, a man has lined up batteries for sale, his portable stereo loudly playing “Love Is a Stranger” by The Eurythmics.

    It’s all absolutely crazy. Shakespeare looks on to the square, head resting on hand. It’s hard to read his expression, but I’d like to think he would appreciate the real-life theatre unfolding right here, right now, in the heart of this unique city.

     

     

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