Guest Contributor | May 23rd, 2012
Photos by Artur Swistak
From the way Londoners are anticipating the Olympics this summer you wouldn’t be too far off imaging a state of guerrilla warfare is imminent. Posters all over London encourage locals to take up cycling to work or adjust their morning routine to avoid the worst of the chaos. Sorry I mean influx of tourists and Olympiads. (I myself am pondering how best to avoid the crowds, including factoring in an hour plus walk to work.)
This overarching sense of panic in the capital can be boiled down to Londoners’ general dislike of tourists; they don’t know how to use escalators in the tube, they meander through the streets, taking up an entire length of pavement only to stop dead in front of you, forcing you into a delicate pirouette all while balancing your morning coffee in one hand and a copy of The Stylist in the other. And worst of all, they get on the tube at Leicester Square only to get off at Covent Garden, poor fools.
So what is to be done about this impending bedlam? As far as I can work out, we Londoners have two options:
1) Run away.
2) Rediscover the outer reaches of London.
While I can’t help too much with the first, tempting as it is- I do have a few ideas for the second option. Rather than the usual summer venture to Hyde Park or Regents Park, both of which will be swimming with sightseer’s, hop on the train or the Overground out to Hampstead Heath. Take in the 30 ponds, get lost in the 790 acres of park or take a dip in the (heated) Lido or one of the three natural swimming lakes, if you are brave enough.
Try venturing to the tail end of the Victoria line to Brixton. Despite its bad rap, Brixton is increasingly attractive to young people, which is unsurprising with its growing number of pubs, bars and cafés. My personal favourite spot is Brixton Village, where you can get everything from spicy jerk chicken to fresh mint tea out of a cracked china tea set.
Finsbury Park, my sunny little spot in North London, far enough out of the centre- and certainly far enough away from the East End- for you to feel thousands of miles away from the Olympic Games. The park is a beautiful spot for a picnic, or if you are feeling active there are a couple of baseball triangles and running lanes that take you on a perfect 3 mile work out. More than its park, Finsbury Park is brimming with fantastic little cafés and coffee shops. Check out Vagabond Café; a tiny coffee shop with flat whites that are to die for, or Bon Matin; a cute place for breakfast, run by the friendliest Frenchman I have ever met. Both can be found on Stroud Green Road.
You could even take yourself as central as Clerkenwell a place almost eerily quiet at the weekend, but it is a foodie’s haven. Have brunch at Giant Robot, where they do a mean Bloody Mary, or grab a coffee at The Workshop, formally St Ali, where they have three mouth watering blends; all should be drunk black to appreciate the flavour.
To really escape the chaos travel down to Brighton- where the sea air will without a doubt put a spring in your step. With pubs along the seafront and more cafés than you can shake a stick at, Brighton is perfect for a day trip. I will warn you now though: the mix of unique people, sunshine and happy-go-lucky atmosphere will get into your blood. Getting back on the train will be a real force of will power!
So there you have it, a Londoners guide to surviving the Olympics: arm yourself with a means of escape while London becomes the worlds centre stage. This summer is going to see both sporting and cultural festivals taking over our screens and our city. With tourists flocking from across the globe to soak up the history and British culture- expect tearooms to be taken over and Buckingham palace encircled by flashing cameras. Your average Londoner will underlie Olympic commentary with a touch of sarcasm and covet a desperate need to have getaway plans when it all gets too much, this summer will go down in history-good or bad.