Forego the traditional, opt for tequila and a rocky beach

By kevin mann

Courtesy of Kevin Mann

As is implied by the title of this entry, you should sometimes forego the traditional night, which involves roads, buildings, bartenders, normal people etc., and branch out. Look for new and weird things to do. Especially when you inhabit another country at an age that can still handle its fair share of hangovers.

This, my friends, is what leads me to how I spent my Saturday. For anyone who hasn’t encountered the situation, if a friend asks you, “Hey, do you want to go to a party underneath a bridge on the bank of the Thames that runs all night?”  You say, “Yes. Let’s go now.”

Definitely one of the better choices for a night out that I have in my repertoire of weekends in London. Taking the train to center city we consult the only iPhone in the group and ask it for directions to Festival Pier. We cross on the walkway of Golden Jubilee Bridge, which is a beautiful walk to do at night in and of itself, with Big Ben, the London Eye, and the rest of a Saturday night city throwing itself at us, and come down on the South Bank. Walking, confused and heavily inebriated and obviously tourists, we find Festival Pier, a lone bridge extending some fifty feet into the river, completely empty and closed off. As we are turning to scold my friend for his failed plan for the night we notice here and there people hopping over the cement wall onto the stairway leading to the beach below. Bending over the old stone banisters, we see there are music and lights, and five hundred people all with open-containers dancing and being young under the Festival Pier.

Quickly we proceed to join them, dancing and drinking our legal drinks openly. Growing up in the United States this is one thing that still blows my mind, the fact that all of these people, rowdy and boisterous, intoxicated and energetic, assemble under a Pier to drink and have a great time together. All the while receiving a pleasant, “How do you do?” nod from the police that walk by.

This area of the bank is clearly a popular party spot with graffiti living on the centuries-old walls. The rocky surface that we stand on is littered with labels and old cans with dying paint and cigarette butts galore, but somehow I am still more comfortable walking around here than I am at the Jersey Shore. I suppose there are less orange mutants and steroid enhanced Super Saiyans and more people laughing and smiling in their approachable groups. Couples a few yards away from the crowd snogging, guys relieving themselves past the young lovers on walls that are older than my great-grandparents, and all around fantastic carpe diem-esque vibes of life emanating from just about every direction; most readily from the Tequila bottle that I pass around with my good, good friends.

The night goes on like this, all in the fresh air mind you and not contaminated with the sweat of hundreds of stench-laden strangers. Intermittently my friend and I skip rocks into the river but in our state we can’t string together more than two or three hops into the Thames. A bottle and six pints and several hours of dancing, laughing, and storytelling later and we are ready to leave. We climb up the steps, holding the railings all the while, and I take a second to look back down at a night that I already miss, saying goodbye to a night with absolutely zero regrets, which is rare for a Saturday spent with tequila.

Kevin Mann can be reached at [email protected]