The great thing about Kew Gardens is the way that even on the first sunny Saturday in months, it never seems crowded.
Of course, the great pieces of architecture – the Palm House and the Temperate House victorian glasshouses – attract crowds, and deservedly so. But scattered gems like the new Alpine house, a small but breathtaking 10m arc of glass, are less so. And the grounds contain multitudes, built and repurposed over 200 years: an ancient Ice Cellar, a couple of galleries, the brilliant Orangery. In six years of several visits a year, there are still plenty of things I haven’t seen. And new bits – like the temporary Mediterreanean Garden this summer, or the boxy modernist botanical illustrations gallery opening next year – are being created all the time. There’s always something new at Kew, whenever you visit.
I feel pangs at leaving this place, which is good: it means I’m staying in touch with my London.
The new O2 Dome is quite pleasant in a popcultural, hamburgery kind of way. The big tent’s now home to a circular street of restaurants and cafes around a central arena, with a cinema near the top. The architects have cleverly kept the fact you’re in a tent – the main point – in plain view, although with more buildings inside than before it doesn’t seem to soar as much.
They’ve sensibly kept it free of burgers and fried chicken. The venues are lower-mid-range chains like Pizza Express and Slug & Lettuce, places the middle class can comfortably eat in. Again, nothing difficult or unexpected about it, just a low-intensity, American-style family experience pitched just right for the people who’ll frequent the place.
The cinema’s on the same level of experience. No ticket booths, just machines (that dispense rather overlarge receipts; there’s some tree-saving to be done here.) Inside, the auditoria are big and tiered, a proper cinema experience with decent seats.
All in all, the O2 is a ‘nice’ place. Perfect for families, the mid-level mass-market audience it wants, the sort of people who put TV show schedules in their diaries, work 9-to-5 and own their own home. A nice, normal place. For nice, normal people.