Hyde Park & Serpentine Pavilion

It was the summer bank holiday weekend and the forecast was favorable – so those still left in London (mostly tourists and the few students who weren’t getting plastered at the Notting Hill Carnival) turned out for an afternoon in Hyde Park.

Bright deck chairs are available to lounge along the perimeter of Round Pond. But I’m a traditionalist – nothing better than plonking down on a picnic blanket in the grass with Kensington Palace in the background (and a wee bottle of chablis)!

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Albert Memorial, with Royal Albert Hall behind

Albert Memorial, with Royal Albert Hall behind

The Serpentine Gallery is known for hosting dreadful contemporary art exhibits (for example, the tangle of lightbulbs now on display, below) patrolled by haggard unpaid volunteers dressed head-to-toe in threadbare rags. Attendance figures are vastly exaggerated thanks to its status as the most popular public toilet in Kensington Gardens. It does have a charming little bookshop, stocked to the rafters with old Phaidon publications – well worth a browse.

The recently commissioned pavilion designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto warrants a passing glance. The delicate jungle gym constructed of white steel rods explores the boundaries between nature and the built environment. Meant to resemble a geometric cloud (or nest?) the structure encourages audience engagement; hyperactive kids who’ve momentarily escaped their guardian’s attention can clamber raucously until they are shouted down by a frazzled intern invigilating the space. Fortnum & Mason is there doling out very expensive coffees from their pop-up cafe inside the pavilion – which you can enjoy on one of the translucent stepped terraces.

The Serpentine Gallery

The Serpentine Gallery

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Pavilion, by Sou Fujimoto

Pavilion, by Sou Fujimoto

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What more could you ask of a sunny public holiday spent in a Royal park?

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