Friday, 12 October 2012

Escape From the Carnival Part 2: Undersea Chaos at SEA LIFE London

The BP Portrait Award 2012

For day two of the Carnival we had planned an alternative escape route.  Rather than hiding out at Stonehenge, we would take part in some urban camouflage in the heart of the Southbank.  Before the main action we made a small detour to the National Portrait Gallery to check out the BP Portrait Award 2012.  This was a great warm up for the day ahead, below were a few of my favourites from the exhibition in no particular order:

Mr Kitazawa's Noodle Bar, Tokyo - Carl Randall
Still Waiting - Antonio Barahona
Rasputin always wins - Paul Moyse
Wes's Dream - Erin Wozniak

You can view the above pictures and info from the exhibition here: BP Portrait Award 2012

Las Iguanas
After a little taste of art it was time to fill our stomachs.  We settled on Las Iguanas, a Central and South American themed restaurant on the Southbank.  Las Iguanas appealed due to the cheapish looking lunch menu, the lack of a wait for a table and a feeling that if it were half as good as Wahaca we'd have a decent lunch.  We were quickly shown to a nice corner table in the downstairs part of the restaurant.  Sadly a common trick was in use today, advertise a cheap deal outside on the menu board, but once you get the customer sat down the deal is nowhere to be seen.  Instead we were offered a two for one on cocktails which we gladly accepted.  The cocktails weren't amazing but they did make for a very pretty picture.  The food was decent and came quickly, nicely presented and full of flavour.  Service was fine.  It was time for the bill and the chance to join the crowds for the privilege of queuing for the London Aquarium, or Sealife London as it calls itself these days.

SEA LIFE London Aquarium

Thankfully we had booked our tickets for the aquarium online that morning.  We took advantage of an after 3 PM special offer with reduced price entry and access to the priority queue.  If we hadn't have booked this offer we would have certainly walked away as the main queue was chaotic and slow moving and the admission charge is high.  Thankfully we waited barely ten minutes in the priority queue.  We hadn't been to the aquarium in some time and I remember it was busy in places on that occasion too.  Today however, it was crazy with people pushing each other in the dark on the way down to see the fishes.  The aquarium was worth about three hours plus of our time and we enjoyed watching the small children point out the "Happy Feet" and the "Finding Nemos"!  After a while of getting accustomed to the crowds and staying clear of the pushers it became an increasingly enjoyable visit thanks to the huge range of sea creatures on show and the chance to get up really close to them.  We also got to take some great pictures as well.

I Confess (Alfred Hitchcock, 1953)
I was looking forward to the next part of the day as we approached early evening on the Southbank, Alfred Hitchcock's, I Confess at the BFI.  I am a big Hitchcock fan with Vertigo and North by Northwest being two of my favourites but I was looking forward to I Confess as it looked like a simple tale of guilt and suspense.  The film is about a priest (Montgomery Clift) who is framed for killing a man thanks to a less than plausible alibi.  He is unable to clear his name, as the perpetrator of the crime Otto Keller, (O.E. Hasse) is someone close to him who has admitted to the crime whilst in confession knowing that the priest cannot say a word to anyone as it is against his faith to do so.  As the film progresses, the priest becomes more and more involved in the murder case.  However, he stays true to his beliefs by not giving up the suspect.  Eventually cracks appear, but it is not the priest that caves in.  After being found not guilty in a court of law to the disgust of all in the court room our priest walks free to cries of abuse from the crowd who all expected him to be found guilty.  Our murderer still can’t help himself and as his wife tries to give him up he shoots at her and the priest, fatally wounding his wife and giving the game away.   As the police and the priest chase him down he is still unaware and has deluded himself into thinking the priest finally talked as he is shot down by the police.   I Confess is a really well put together film in that all the characters have something to hide, have all trusted the wrong people or have betrayed the ones they love.  There is also an interesting political element/allegory with the criminal being German.  I was now looking forward to a tasty dinner to discuss the film over.

The Riverside
After years and years of walking past and saying no, we decided to try the Riverside at the BFI for dinner and it was a great choice, albeit the menu is a touch limited for regular visits.  The food is decent value for money and best of all there was no need to queue to get a table which on the Southbank is a big bonus when you are often quoted an hours wait for restaurants you'd not normally give the time of day to.  I went with the pulled pork burger with chips washed down with a pint of Heineken and finished up with a cup of coffee that smelt better than it tasted.  We then enjoyed the scenic walk back across the bridge to Embankment tube and off home, hoping we'd dodged the carnival for another year.

National Portrait Gallery - 2 St.Martin's Place London WC2H 0HE
SEALIFE London - County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB
BFI - Belvedere Road, South Bank SE1 8XT

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