In a world where a necktie turns around to a collar, the coat lining appears on the outside and former sleeves provide your buttons, I have come to realize that I am not that cool. Perhaps I need the wardrobe surgery offered by Junky Styling,a hip fashion design shop in London’s East End, where stuffy pinstripes breathe new life.
New life pulsates throughout East End. Junky joins dozens of chic shops, restaurants,pubs and salons: one fancy enough to lure in celebrities in need of champagne during their eyebrow waxing at Taylor Taylor.
You can still sit in Ten Bells, the pub where one of Jack the Ripper’s victims indulged in her final drink before walking the dangerous streets. And you can walk through the market listening for the dropped “h” of a Cockney accent from “My Fair-Lady.”
Most, likely, however, you will not recognize from old Sherlock Holmes movies the now-vibrant East End of London with its Olympic-sized renaissance.
The gritty East End was once both the breadbasket and the production line for London, with fields and factories pumping out produce, products and grime. The entire500-acre Olympic site lies on a former brown field of industrial wasteland. More than a million tons of dirt had to be sanitized before building. The big blocks you see are the ground up former bathrooms of the old factories.
Now, the“Marshmallow” stands there, the puffy temporary venue for basketball, which Brazil is making noises to get. The Aquatic Center looks like it will dive back into the water and turn into a stingray and the “Pringle,” the Brits love their-nicknames, is the Velodrome cycling track.
The Copper Box out greens them all with recycled materials and energy efficiency for the handball courts.
Towering over it all stands the Orbit, now the largest piece of public art in London. The swirling sculpture will transform into a restaurant post Games, which is a great time to visit.
One reason London won the Games for their record third time (1908, 1948) is the opportunity they saw to recycle a space and a troubled area. Their vision goes way beyond putting out bins to dump empty soda cans into. And according to the folks at Junky, nothing could be more fashionable.
Even if you eschew a ticket to the gymnastics or track and field, you can plenty of exercise of your own walking the once notorious pathways of East End. Follow your nose for the grandest pedestrian and bike pathway the Jubilee Greenway, built over the 1860 sewer line. The occasional whiff will remind you of its origins.
The Greenway offers a grand view of the old neighborhoods, which have always served as a haven for new immigrants. In the former Jewish section, towers give way to minarets as Muslims now worship there. The roads are lined with restaurants serving people from Africa, the Caribbean and Bangladesh.
A few classic cockney restaurants survive, including East Ender David Beckham’s favorite, Tony Lane’s Pie & Mash. He often goes there after visiting his tailor, Timothy Everest.
It is tempting to join a small collection of women gathered outside of Everest’s tailor shop. Beckham,along with the whole family, had entered for a fitting. I feel certain the ladies were simply curious about how a tailor might achieve a proper fit on that famed body.
The Old Truman Brewery, once the largest beer maker in the world, now houses fashion-forward boutiques, bars, clubs and restaurants. Art galleries also present new artists and works for display and sale.
Nearby, the mysterious graffiti artist, Banksy, has placed one of his irreverent installments.The pink car atop a shopping crate has lost its skeleton driver, but is otherwise preserved for viewing.
The tinted Triumph might be one of the dark humored artist’s tamer pieces. In spite of his very public art, his face remains unknown.
Long after all of the gold medals are hung on deserving necks, there will be achievements in the arts in full view.
The London 2012 Festival, which runs through September 9, competes as a Cultural Olympiad. Theater, music, dance, film, sculpture and performance art will be showcased featuring artists from all over the world.
The venerable Globe Theater, Shakespeare’s home, will welcome theater companies from all manner of countries, cultures and languages to stage all 37 of his plays.
If you feel the need for a bit of magic, the new Warner Brothers Studio Tour of The Making of Harry Potter will place you right in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. The enchantment of the original sets continues right through my favorite, Diagon Alley, with a fully funny Joke Shop.
No visit is complete without a couple of Anglophile traditions. My favorites are afternoon tea at the Brown’s Hotel, Mayfair, where Winston Churchill once inhabited his table at the bar.
Follow the caffeine up with a shaken, not stirred, James Bondmartini, which was invented at the Duke’s Hotel, St. James.
By just entering the rococo lobby, you can see why Ian Fleming conjured an elegant spy in its environs.
While London never fails to offer a myriad of charms, the innovative new offerings bring fresh color to its reliable tweediness.
Even if you only watch the Games from your living room, you can still capture the excitement and spirit with a visit to the real winner of the gold: London’s East End.