Covent Garden review (Apr 2014)
This is an old review Read my most recent review here
I thought I'd do a bit of people-watching in Covent Garden today. Obviously I'm only going to watch the pretty women though, that goes without saying. I am a bloke, after all. It's a bit drizzly today so there are not many people out and about, but hopefully it will clear up later. All the people I can see at the moment are running under cover to get out of the rain. Umbrellas like thick big dustbin lids doming over their heads to fend off the wet. They're having big battles, some of them, bashing their brollies as they bundle past, like a big game of conkers. The ones who haven't armed themselves (with brollies) have to duck and weave like lightning to stop their eyes getting gouged out. They are dangerous weapons, umbrellas. They might look pretty, but when you've got a whole wall of them coming towards you at head height it's like facing down a cavalry charge.
Covent Garden is a popular place for tourists. And now that I stop to think about it... I'm wondering why that is? It's only got one real attraction in it -- the London Transport Museum. And that's hardly the city's biggest pull. The Royal Opera House is round the back, and St. Paul's church is worth five minutes of your time. So why is it so popular? I dunno. It's got some nice little shops in it I suppose, and an undercover street market, but if I'm honest the only time I ever come here myself is to have a wee -- they've got some free toilets round the side (which are few and far between in London).
You can usually count on a big crowd and street entertainers standing outside St. Paul's church, juggling balls and swallowing swords, doing flips and magic tricks. But it must be a bit early in the morning for all that stuff, because all I can see right now are a load of old drunks kipped out on the steps, clutching crumpled up tins of Diamond Light. They are holding out their hats for money as well, but it's a tough crowd around here. If they want some money then people will expect a show -- they will have to sing a song or something. This is Covent Garden! If you want some change then you have to earn it.
Everything is still opening up. Baristas are cleaning and steaming out their coffee machines, and beeping trash trucks are carting away the bin bags. Street cleaners are sweeping up last night's revelry. But once it gets going this place is packed. This is one of the meeting spots of London -- like Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. People come here for their lunch and a mill around, looking for a way to waste their cash.
They've also got a much more traditional market (the 'Jubilee Market'), with lots of tented stalls selling scarves and hats and second-hand trinkets. If you want to get one of those corny "My husband went to London" t-shirts, or a "Keep calm and carry on" poster, then this is the place to do it. Remember to have a look downstairs as well, because they've got a couple of nice little shops selling sea-faring memorabilia and carved wooden toys.
There's still no sign of any street entertainers, and it's getting on for half-past ten now. Where are they all? I think I'm going to go and have a coffee while I'm waiting...
There are two places where the entertainers set up their stall, and the main one is outside St. Paul's church (not to be confused with the St. Paul's Cathedral). If you want to get the best viewing spot then try and wedge yourself onto the balcony of the Punch & Judy pub overlooking the square. It gets packed like sardines in the afternoon and evening though, and is probably not worth the hassle.
Still no sign of the buskers in the main square, and it's getting on for midday. I guess we'll have to make our own entertainment today. Oh no, wait... here he is... he's moved into the North Hall to escape the rain. I've found a very shouty magician with bright blue hair; a bit of a punk -- a cross between Paul Daniels and Sid Vicious (if you can imagine such a thing). His tricks aren't up to much but his jokes are quite funny. He's made a coke can float and two hundred people laugh.
Guest – When do the street performers usually appear? What is the best time to view them?
Admin – It could literally be any time, but it's usually when there's a big enough crowd to earn them some money — so lunchtime and early afternoon is best. I wouldn't look before 10 AM. They will either be on the patch of ground in front of St Paul's church or downstairs in the piazza by the restaurant and cafe tables.
Guest – is there a lunchtime classical music concert daily
Admin – Usually, but it's not like a scheduled performance so you can't count on it. They are basically buskers (but ones who have been auditioned to make sure they're good)
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