The NDA Unofficial Field Trip – London 2013

My day started at 04:45 on Saturday morning; I dragged my sorry a$$ out of bed repeating to myself that the early start was worth it.  Because on Saturday I ventured to London to meet a dozen individuals that I had only ever corresponded with via an online forum. 

Just to clarify: an online student forum.  Not one of those dodgy chat-rooms or equally dubious Dating sites.  No, this was all very above board and completely in the interests of furthering our Interior Design studies.  Honestly.

All of the eager attendees made their way from various corners of the UK, for some it was a hop, skip and a jump, for a few poor sods it involved a lengthy train ride and in my case, a plane ride.

Before I knew it slightly awkward introductions mixed with tentative hugs and air kisses ensued as we met each other at our designated meeting point (The Regency Hotel, South Kensington) and put faces to names.  At this early stage in the proceedings there was an abundance of hands-in-pocket’s, whilst desperately looking for a few stones to kick and a few rushed, mediocre one-liners (namely by yours truly) in an attempt to break the ice.

Kicking Stones 1

However, with the clear London sky smiling down at us the leisurely dander to the Victoria & Albert Museum provided an excellent opportunity for small-talk, chit-chat and girly-gossip that most definitely eased the previous desire to stare at the ground.  The early signs were there: we were going to get on fabulously and without a hitch.  Thank God.  Cos let’s be honest being stuck in London with 12 possible fruit-loops is not one’s idea of the perfect weekend, although to be fair I was probably placed in the ‘possible fruit-loop’ category and I have no problem with that whatsoever!

The V&A is a mighty impressive building – both its exterior and interior.  The various exhibition pieces inside encouraged many topics of conversation and also the odd delay to proceedings with the ‘usual suspects’ wandering off now and again – you know who you are!!!  It also provided me with a new experience: Gluten free almond cake.

I have decided with no hesitation that I don’t care for Gluten free almond cake.

Or should I say Gluten free FAUX almond cake because I’m telling you now, I could not taste almonds at all. 

NOTHING. 

I could taste NOTHING.  

However, the impressive lighting and the highly decorated ceiling in the café area was the distraction I needed from the challenge of trying to finish the highly unpleasant cake that had the texture of a sponge sitting in front of me.

V&A Cafe

There were 3 of these bad boys in the café – they were huge and extremely sparkly. I want one for my living room; I wouldn’t be able to get one of these through my front door but I want one nonetheless.

A brief collage sort of thing to round up a view items that interested me at the V&A Furniture exhibit (I’m going to do a little bit of name dropping here but some of the pieces below were designed by Charles Eames, Thomas Chippendale, Eileen Gray and Marcel Breuer):

V&A

The ‘NDA Crew’ posing for a photo in the V&A (taken by a stupid bloke who cut off some of their feet and he had the audacity to take this photo 3/4 times….sheesh).  One other student who isn’t in this photo did actually meet us later for dinner – so apologies that her presence on the day hasn’t been captured.

VAFieldtrip

Another photo opportunity beckoned when we decided to take a break and enjoy the glorious weather in the courtyard.  Don’t be fooled by those smiling eyes and cheery dispositions, in reality we were all quickly detesting the sight of each other and were cursing the fact that we had willingly agreed to spend the weekend together.  I’m kidding, of course.  Sort of.

Test 1 (2)

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering in and out of various furniture shops with The Conran Shop being the most highly anticipated.  And frankly I’m astounded that its exterior is so unattractive and uninspiring.  Seriously, this is an ugly building.  And what is the significance of Michelin??  Weird.  I have formally declared this building the ‘uncooked prawn ring’ shop because those awful grey bands at the top of this building are the same hue as an uncooked prawn (and the yellow tyres actually resemble little wedges of lemon that would compliment the prawns beautifully).  As we were making our way to The Conran Shop I slagged off this building for a full 5 minutes before realising that this WAS The Conran Shop.

The Conran Shop

We all know that I have a strange obsession with Tolix chairs (which I still don’t fully understand myself) so the biggest highlight once inside the uncooked prawn ring building was the sight of 8 Tolix chairs (that incidentally have a combined value of £1,680).  Result!!  What a wonderful way to enjoy an afternoon….being SURROUNDED by 8 Tolix chairs!!  Awesome.

Tolix Chairs

I wanted to get much more intimate with all of these chairs but common decency prevented me from doing so.  So I did what any normal person would do whilst visiting the highly regarded Conran Shop in London; I put my feet up (literally).  I should note that I absolutely love the shade of these chairs – they are quite literally the colour of vanilla ice-cream and as such have seriously strong retro vibes.  Love, love, love.

Obsession with Tolix

Oh, how I love thee, let me count the ways…

We made our way from one Interiors/Furniture shop to another and generally bitched about the ridiculous prices and criticised the high-end designs (whilst being continually surveyed by staff who thought they were in the SAS, especially when one of our ‘party’ tended to clumsily lift the flippin heaviest objects she could find…love you!!).  The polished, muted and minimal designs in a lot of these stores (you know the ones; Cassina, B&B Italia etc.) kinda morphed into one another because they were so similar but one shop instantly caught our attention.  The contents of this shop were simply a feast for the eyes.  We decided that the elaborate form of the furniture coupled with their  kaleidoscope of colours and patterns, would have made them perfect selections for Willy Wonka’s office.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out:

Willy Wonka

‘Come with meeeeee and you’ll beeeeee, in a world of pure imagination…’

On a much more serious note (God, I loved Willy Wonka…how many of you have been suddenly transported back to your childhood??!!), I appreciated the quirkiness of these designs and their sense of presence but my only criticism is that none of them were pieces of upcycled furniture, nor was the fabric upcycled.  Which is a shame really.

Quirky Furniture

By the end of the evening we were very much looking forward to a few glasses of wine and a decent plate of grub; so we made our way to Cote Bistro in Kensington.  Everything was fine until ‘roasted red pepper-gate'; where one of our ‘party’ was supposed to have received roasted peppers in her Goat’s Cheese salad and well, quite simply didn’t.  TWICE.  She very politely informed the waitress of this traumatic discovery and when her new salad bowl arrived, it was STILL missing those all elusive roasted peppers.  The injustice!!!  The only way to explain why she was so upset at not having received roasted peppers in her salad is that earlier in the day our friend had been daydreaming about these succulent little fellas.  A bit like this:

Roasted Red Pepper Craving

Ho, ho ,ho!!!  I’m only kidding, chum!!  You had every right to demand those roasted peppers!!

Laughs were aplenty that night until the next morning when I awoke and attempted to get out of bed.  My back, legs, feet and even my eyelashes hurt.  This wasn’t good.  Not good at all.  After a few coffees and a sampling of absolutely divine tray bakes the ‘last girls standing’ headed to Harrods (at this stage a lot of goodbyes and much less tentative hugs had been exchanged as each of our party went their separate ways).

Harrods was, um, ok I guess.  Nothing to get too excited about.  It was the buskers outside Harrods that really grabbed my attention.  They were amazing!  I mean, a three piece band for goodness sake!!  And the sound was really impressive, so much so that a crowd had gathered.

Buskers

Busking, London style.

As our last day dwindled to our last 30 minutes we decided to rest our burning feet and grab a coffee at Starbucks.  This should have been a run-of-the-mill experience but the very pleasant guy who served me decided to turn this into a very out-of-the-ordinary experience.  No sooner had I given him my money IStarbucks was being told how ‘attractive’ I was in front of my new friends and whatever queue there was behind me.  How random!  And as we made our way out of Starbucks he faced me with his arms outstretched; so I duly obliged and gave him a hug much to the amusement of his colleagues behind the counter who decided that such an event deserved a round of applause!!  I kid you not!  Ok, ok I’ll admit that I loved every minute of it.  Ok?  Happy now??!

All in all, this little field trip turned out to be one of the best weekends I’ve had in quite a while and what unquestionably made it so much more enjoyable and special was meeting people in person that I had known previously via an online student forum for at least a year (in some cases two years).  We have provided support, encouragement and the proverbial shoulder to cry on at various times throughout our studies, so it was a thrill to be finally in their company and share some great laughs.  A big thank you to everyone who attended and helped to make our field trip such a great success.

Here’s hoping for Part II.