A fortnight ago, our local paper, La Dépêche du Midi had ‘Londres, capitale du monde!’ as its banner headline. The story was, of course, the Olympics. We’re unaccustomed to this particular paper taking much notice of anything that occurs outside south-west France, but ‘les JO’ (Jeux Olympiques) have been big news.
Not as much as in England though. When we arrived in the UK, we were unprepared for Olympic Fever. Red white and blue banners and flags hang from houses. Shops have Olympic-themed window displays, and if you want to buy mugs, some paper napkins, or fancy a new cushion, you’d better want them plastered with the Union Flag.
Still, we enjoyed staying with Tom and Sarah in Olympic-happy London, and spent an evening round the South Bank area. Eat near Borough Market and you’re sure of a tasty meal cooked with decent ingredients: the convivial and cheery atmosphere comes free. Wander along from there to the Festival Hall, and you’ll be in the company of Olympic visitors from just about every country you can think of, as well as locals, just out to enjoy being alongside the Thames and all that this particular stretch of river offers. Tate Modern and the Globe weren’t open for business at that time of the evening, but there’s still plenty to see. The National Theatre has a slightly zany pop-up bar, the Propstore, furnished with props from popular productions. We were aMAZEd by the book maze we found in the South Bank Centre, constructed from some 250,000 books, most of which we found we wanted to read, if we hadn’t already.
And as part of the Festival of Britain retrospective, there was a retro-funfair with fearsomely-clanking roller-coaster as well as all the rides of a traditional 50’s fair.
As night fell, we simply mooched along the Thames-side nightscape. We felt lucky to be there and lucky to have shared, if not as excited sports spectators, London’s Olympic August.
“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
— Samuel Johnson