South London by Gigi

I have known Gigi for ever. She is not only a friend but almost a family member as I have been friends with her sister since kindergarten. In 1994 it was her parents, brother and sister who took me on a road trip around Europe, dropping me of in Switzerland one day before my classes started at the hotel school.

Nowadays Giovana lives in London with her photographer husband and cute little son. Here is her take on London:

“London is divided between North and South of the River Thames. There’s a certain pride in saying you live in the North or down South for different reasons. North Londoners will say that everything happens on the upper side. The best nightlife is in Camden, in Farringdon and in Angel, most of the tourist attractions and the West End are there, fancy neighbourhoods like Chelsea and Kensington top the list with trendy East London catering for the hipsters and the cool crowd.

But in the South things are different. Not as fancy, nor as trendy, the South is… simply cool. Effortless cool. It’s a vibrant hot-pot of different backgrounds, nationalities and cultures creating a unique place. I doubt there are more diverse places in the world than South London. The tube doesn’t get that far South, so you’ll have to rely on trains and buses to get to most places, but it’s worth it. Here’s my introduction to “Souf Lundun”.

Brixton, my favourite place in London. It has a lot of history of activism (look up Brixton Riots) and many artists flourished there, including our Brixton boy David Bowie.

What to do: go to the Brixton Village Market in the evening. Choose any restaurant. Enjoy some impromptu live music and the hustle and bustle of the market’s nightlife.

Best find: Salon. Local products, new menu every day, excellent food, shared tables, cool celebrity spotting (Johnny Marr was there last time I went).

Image from Salon Brixton's Instagram

Image from Salon Brixton’s Instagram

Peckham, probably the most mixed of all London postcodes, you can walk down the High Street and buy Caribbean food, Middle Eastern house decoration, African textiles, Eastern Asian ingredients and finish the day sipping cocktails at the trendy Frank’s Café with local hipsters.

Best finds: Frank’s Café is a bar with a huge outdoor area on top of a car park. It has temporary exhibitions by local artists, but it has been discovered by East London kids who arrive in large groups from Shoreditch on the Overground. So it’s full of hipster on weekends, but weekdays are a safe bet. You should try the Peckham Refreshment Rooms for delicious tapas, The Montpelier Pub for a good pint, Pedler Bistro for its cool mix of food and decoration, new Vietnamese Bánh Bánh or the famous Thai restaurant The Begging Bowl. Basically, wherever you go in Peckham, you’ll find amazing vibrant new food and cool environments.

Image from Frank's Café website

Image from Frank’s Café website

Dulwich Picture Gallery and Horniman Museum, two museums not very well known by North Londoners nor by the rest of the world. Both are small, full of history and with great temporary exhibitions. I went to the M.C.Escher last year at the Dulwich Picture Gallery and right now Nikolai Astrup is on. The Horniman is great for family days out, it’s a mini Natural History Museum with a very good aquarium.

Image from Dulwich Gallery on Facebook

Image from Dulwich Gallery on Facebook

Blackheath. Tourists usually get as far as Greenwich when visiting the South, but if you cross Greenwich Park, after the Planetarium (also well worth the visit), you reach a big empty field, the Blackheath. Surrounding it there’s a small village that has been engulfed by the city, but still has its great old pubs, little bistros and small streets. Very charming for a late afternoon stroll.

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