But you don't want to read about that. You want to read about Mod stuff!
Well, let me start off by saying that the first thing I told my wife was that I didn't want to do ANY Mod stuff while in Europe. We have Mod people here in the U.S. I want to see stuff I can't get over here! So, no Brighton Beach visits, no Carnaby Street visits, no Mod clubbin'. Let's be 100% tourists!
But then I heard about the 'Reading Steady Go' Mod exhibit which would be closing within days of our arrival. Then, our hosts in Paris let us know that their band would be playing part of a French Mod weekender while we were in town. Then, we discovered that our American friend would be moving to London days before our arrival, just in time to let us know of any Mod nights going on. Well, turns out I'd be needing a larger suitcase to carry more outfits. Of course, this lead to my first mistake in traveling abroad: overpacking! I'll save this for a future post, though.
So obviously, we'd be fitting in some Mod stops into our trip. Still, I protested, no Carnaby Street! All these years, I had heard about it being a grubby alley with cheesy Mod shops and I just didn't care to give in to all that nonsense. (Yup, you guessed it... I ended up changing my mind on that too.)
Well, let's start this thing. We flew in to London in the afternoon, went through the long customs lines, picked up our bags, and hopped on to the Underground. Boy, was I excited... until the train arrived. Hey London, I've got a suggestion for you: instead of 'Mind the Gap', how about "FIX the Gap"?! Seriously... when our first Underground train arrived and I heard the announcement, "Mind the Gap," I snickered and elbowed Irene.
Speaking of which, we hit a heat wave in London! We had packed for nice, Autumn, cool-to-cold weather, and then found out the hard way we should have packed short sleeves. But I'll get back to this in a bit.
We finally hit the end of our tube stop at Euston Square and I am very proud to announce that not ONCE did I make a Jam reference! Unfortunately, I can't say the same for my wife who started to sing a little lyric when we walked out of the station: "Saturday's girls work in Tesco's and Woolworths." I looked at her perplexed. She smiled and pointed at a corner store across the street, Tesco's. Again, I looked at her blankly. "From the Jam song!" she cried. Now, I thought I was a pretty alright Jam aficionado, but apparently not. Turns out it's a lyric from "Saturday's Kids," but unlike me, all of you probably already knew that. (SIDE NOTE: this wouldn't be the last Jam song reference she would make on this trip. When I pointed out Wardour Street to her, she replied, "Oh no! I hope they don't drop any A-bombs on us!" Cue rimshot. And I'm sure at one point she did say, "Hey, we're going underground!" Sigh...)
Now friends, let me tell you about our very first meal in London. After
Well, on our first evening in London, we decided to spend it in Reading instead. We had learned that the final days of the 'Reading Steady Go' exhibit would be celebrated this evening with a performance by The Birds with original lead singer, Ali MacKenzie, The Small Fakers (Small Faces tribute band, in case you couldn't figure it out) and DJs Jim and Paul 'Smiler' Anderson (the man behind the exhibit).
We spent about 30 minutes perspiring in King's Cross station as we tried to find the Reading tube stop. Guess what we learned? There is no Reading tube stop! But we were, however, directed to Paddington Station which we did get to, but not before jumping on a train that went in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, by the time we got to Paddington we realized we would be getting into Reading way too late, not to mention the time we'd need to figure out how to get back to our hotel afterward. So we sat in Paddington, dressed all Mod-like and consoling ourselves with memories of Paddington Bear animated shorts on Romper Room.
The next day, we continued our trip proper-tourist style: Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, Big Ben, Soho-oh-my god, the London heat! Seriously, guys, we're weather wimps... we admit it! That's why we live in the Bay Area. This heat was too much for us (even though it was probably just in the 80s, or mid-20s, for you Celsius folk). It was so hot, I broke my vow not to go to Carnaby Street. See, I figured that'd be the best place to buy a short-sleeved Fred Perry. After seeing guys all over London in pretty-cool looking FPs, I told my wife I needed one. I'm not even a huge Fred Perry fan, but I needed something to keep cool! (Plus, by this point, it was hitting me: I'm in London. It would be silly to skip Carnaby Street since we're already here!)
Unfortunately, by the time we made it to the street, most everything had closed. However, Carnaby Street was not the alley I had been led to believe it was. Oh no, this place was huge! Several blocks, I'd say, with side streets on top of that. Oh, we'd be coming back alright... but not before taking a couple of photos:
Our 2nd full day in London was spent at the British Museum. Seriously... like the full day was practically spent there! An AMAZING place that is definitely worth a visit (along with the National Gallery)! Afterward, we did a little more shopping in Soho. I was still hunting for a Fred Perry, especially after seeing great-looking vintage-styled ones on random people. We found the 'flagship' Fred Perry store, walked in, and walked right back out after seeing those price tags. We then walked over to another Fred Perry shop and walked out of that one too, seeing as how much worse the quality of those shirts seemed. Gotta tell you, London really loves its Fred Perry brand! We saw this during our hunt for the shirts:
After not buying any Fred Perrys, we met up with our friend Syd at a still-bustling Carnaby Street. Honestly, we skipped so many shops on the main street: Pretty Green, the Merc, Ben Sherman. Sorry guys, but as 'Mod' as these shops claim to be, nothing in the windows looked appealing. And regarding the Merc, I've NEVER been tempted to shop there. I always associated that place with the easy, insta-Mod look. Just not my thing. We did walk in to Sherry's, more as a joke than anything else. For years, I saw this shop as the type of place where insta-Mods might go for their insta-gear. However, I will say this for Sherry's: the people who run it were super nice and welcoming! Sure, they sold a lot of janky, cheap Mod gear, but y'know what? They also sold John Smedleys about 30 pounds cheaper than Fred Perry was selling them for. So, yes, I picked one up! Plus, they carried other current Moddish labels that looked interesting. I always like supporting the small shop owners and for a little mom'n'pop shop, I'd totally recommend them! Stay away from the cookie-cutter 'Mod' suits and hunt down a John Smedley or two.
|Hey. Mod enough for ya?|
The other shop I dug was Peckham Rye. After Blaqua, I peeked in to this shop to drool over the ties in the window since they had just closed. But the man working in the shop was kind enough to open his door for us!
Well, after a nice Indian dinner and drinks at a pub with our pal Syd, it was back to the hotel to sweat through the evening heat. We had to catch up on rest because the next day, we'd be hitting Highgate Cemetery and then taking a Eurostar to Paris! Up to this point, despite the temperature, London was a hit!
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of our exciting European (Moddish) Vacation!