* Prices may differ from that shown
London. Where do I begin with this beautiful, lively, wonderful, buzzing city?
This is probably going to look like a University essay or even a dissertation!
London is the capital of England. I am very proud to call London as my second home and I have lived here for over three years now and I can honestly say living here has been some of the best years of my life. I'm so attached to it I can't leave it!
There are a total of 32 boroughs in London alone and they are:
1. City of Westminster
2. City of London
3. Kensington and Chelsea
4. Hammersmith and Fulham
9. Tower Hamlets
12. Waltham Forest
13. Barking and Dagenham
17. Richmond Upon Thames
18. Kingston Upon Thames
With these listed boroughs you will never be bored and not have an excuse for doing nothing!
Housing: When you first live in London it can be tricky to decide where you want to live because of cost, travel, having children etc. If you go for central London boroughs they are mostly very expensive areas where properties go for millions of pounds (thats for buying for, renting the cheapest is £250 a week for a studio)
But greater London is more ideal if you are on a budget but the travel can cost more and some areas in greater London can be quite dangerous for example high crime levels (at least three London boroughs have said to be the most dangerous crime levels in England because of this and they are : Hackney, Southwark and Lewisham, so if you are planning to live in one of these three boroughs, bare that in mind, possibly the main reason why rent is cheap in those areas) Personally, if you were moving to London for the first time whether you are working or a student, is to get a flat share because it can be tricky to find a studio/one bedroom if you have a budget for example 600-800 pounds, whereas a room you can get as cheap as 400-500 a month.
The best places to live if you are a first time mover are: Putney, Kingston Upon Thames, Clapham, Barnet, Streatham, Norwood, Holloway/Archway, Hounslow (this is my personal opinion) Unless you are not fussy about where you live then choose anywhere in London you like!
Jobs: London is the place for careers whether you are planning a career in music, art, acting, marketing, advertising, fashion, finance, business, nursing, admin, health and social care, sport whatever your profession, what ever your career move may be, London will have many doors for opportunities for your career. It may take a while, but promise me, when you get a job in London it will be worth it and worth the wait. One of the best things about employment in London is that after work even on a Monday night - everyone goes for a cheeky pint or two! That's why I love working in the city! Also the great thing about London is that you could be working for some of the biggest companies in the world that will open so, so many doors for your next career move, or if you're juts trying to get some experience in a job. It's fantastic!
Shopping: A girl's paradise! What more can I say? You have everything whether you have a massive bank balance or not. So where do I start with this? The most popular shopping locations in London are Oxford Street where one of three Selfridges store are in England, (the other two being in Birmingham and Manchester) A huge Topshop flagship store (the best thing on Oxford Street) and almost every high street store you can think of!
There is also regent Street with a number of designer stores including Abercrombie and Fitch (the largest store in the UK) Tommy Hilfiger, Hamley's (the great toy store) and among others.
Between Oxford Street and Regents street is Soho which was a hip place in the 60s and still a great place to visit today, they have the one and only Liberty's store which have the most beautiful patterns I have ever seen! the scarves they sell are so gorgeous, my mum owns like three or four and they stay in fashion so they won't go out but the problem is that most people could tell it is a Liberty scarf because of the pattern! The chocolate there is amazing too! Expensive, but nice.
Walking down Regent Street you will come to Piciddily Circus, which a huge tourist area and along the road you will come to one of the biggest food halls in England, Fortnum and Mason. It is such a beautiful high class restaurant. I have had champagne, Lobster and chips, even though I hate mayonaise but it was amazing! the mayonaise and the meal! Possibly the best meal I had! They do nice chocolates as well. The champagne ones are gorgeous! I kept the box to as well because it was pretty and beautifully presented I did not want to throw it away!
Around the corner from these areas is possibly one of the most expensive shopping areas in London: Bond Street and Mayfair, a lot of famous people shop here, so you could bump into some! I have worked in both Bond Street and Mayfair, again just like most places it's amazing and very rewarding! Mainly they sell designer wear so from Alexander McQueen, Hermes, Burberry, Gucci, any designer brand you can think of!
Up the road from Picidilly Circus is Leicester Square, China Town and Covent Garden. Some great tourist places as well! Leicester is a hit for film premieres, latest film and West End productions. China Town is great, Chinese New year is the best time to go of course! Covent Garden my favorite, especially in the summer, there's entertainment, a market, a range of high street and designer stores. A fact : Covent Garden tube station has 360 stairs, so it will be a very long climb!
Not far away from Leicester Square is Trafalgar square where the Nelson column is, it's nice to chill by the foundations and sit down have lunch, maybe not the ideal place if you do not like pigeons they are every where and always want food. But there are nice selection of art galleries and museums in that area too and you can see Big Ben from there as well!
When walking towards Big Ben you will past a gateway to Buckingham Palace, which sadly there is a limit of how far you can go which is sad. And also you see 10 Downing Street where everyone gets their photo! I will admit when I first moved here I did it! You will then come across to Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye and the River Thames, it is so beautiful at night when it is all lit up. So pretty! London eye is pretty amazing to go on, and on a clear day you actually see Gatwick airport if you are lucky and you get to see Canary Wharf as well, one of the biggest banking buildings/best place for employment in the world!
There is also the London Dudgeon on by the riverside as well, and london aquarium as well.
The City of London is a great place to work, but the disadvantage is that the places are not open at weekends, so you can tell it is a working enviroment! But then it is also a lovely area to walk around in, I personally prefer to do this than walk around the West End.
The Guildhall is there, it is beautiful it is like hogwarts it's so amazing!
One of the most expensive places (to hang out and shop) is Kensington, Knightsbridge and Sloane Square. Knightsbridge has the one and only Harrods. It's a cool place, and Harvey Nichols, very exclusive and very posh! But I have never been to Harvey Nichols myself, but I've heard about how exclusive and posh it is - just because my mum used to work there! But they do have a huge Topshop there as well which is pretty cool, bit smaller to the Flagship store in Oxford Street.
One of the best things about Kensington is that it has some of the biggest tourist attractions such as Natural History museum, the science museum and the Victoria and Albert museum. They are amazing to visit and so breathtaking. Also I'm not bragging or anything but I have worked in Natural History museum, science museum and the Victoria and Albert museum and yes, just as they are to visit they are incredible places to work, so if you see a job offer at these places, go for it! You'll love it. I did catering for events at these places and the food the catering companies serve is out of this world! Amazing!
Sloane Square - Chelsea's exclusive hot spot! Home of Chelsea Flower show which they hold in May every year. I worked there in 2012 with my events company and it was so much fun! I loved every minute being there except getting up at 5am which wasn't my favorite time!
It has alot of exclusive and designer places in the area, some high street stores like Cath Kidston and Jack Wills, but not that many.
Parks: One of the best things about London is that it has alot of parks, unlike most cities. So the following parks are:
Hampstead Heath - beautiful place just off Camden Town and Belsize Park (that's also a lovely place to live, first time buyer its good) you can see the whole of London as well from this park!
Hyde Park - amazing just off Marble Arch. They hold AEG live there every July, yes, again worked with my events company here, and possibly the best event I have done. Got to see Rolling Stones twice, Lionel Ritchie, Bon Jovi and Jennifer Lopez in a space of two weeks! And we got to work in the VIP lounges as well!
Primrose Hill gardens/regents park - lovely place just off regents park station, best place to sit when its a nice day, even in the summer, surrounded by beautiful houses that cost millions :(
Bishop's park - which is in Fulham, South West London. Nice for a small stroll by the River Thames
Richmond Park - Wonderful park, (where Fenton the Labrador became famous after chasing deer, watch the youtube video if you have no idea what I'm talking about! It's really funny!)
Full of deer as well.
Victoria Park - a park in the East End of London, it's between Bow, Hackney and Bethnal Green, I have never been but it's you like a change from the popular parks (as mentioned above)
Travel : Al ot of buses, underground routes, cheap and easy to get round to, unless it is in rush hour it's the nightmare from hell.
Olympic Park : Iconic, based in Stratford, east London. Nice to have a look when shopping in Westfield. Best Westfield in London, mainly high street brands which I think personally it is my favorite, yes girl's paradise once again! Unlike the one in White City which is full of designer brands, basically a mini Harrods and/or Selfridges.
Markets : Best place for markets! (read my reviews because I will be here forever!)
Camden - North London
Spitalfields - City/east London
Brick Lane - East London
Greenwich - South East London
Bermondsey (mainly antiques and 5am starts) - south east London
Covent Garden - central London
Petitcoat lane - East London
Portabello Road - West London
Notting Hill - West London
Brixton - South London
So that's the basic of London, I may update this later, but hope this has been useful and enjoy!
What with the Diamond Jubilee celebrations taking place in London this bank holiday weekend, I thought that I would share with you my experience of London. Now, up until the Easter bank holiday this year, I had never visited the capital of the United Kingdom, despite it being somewhere I had always wanted to visit. Whilst my review may not cover all topics (I was only in town for the weekend), I will now discuss my experience of London.
Hopefully my review will help people who have never been to London before. My view of London is through the eyes of someone who lives in the middle of nowhere and so as you can imagine London was like nothing I had ever seen before!
Obviously, being a city, I expected London to be very busy. Although when I actually got there, coming from a tiny village in the middle of the Welsh hills, I was amazed by how busy the city actually was (by the way I have been to other cities before, Cardiff, Liverpool, Birmingham etc). It was a huge contrast compared to my usual 'so quiet' surroundings. Everywhere I looked there was something going on (I.e. cars whizzing pasts, people rushing everywhere). I loved the whole 'fast paced' thing as it made such a lovely change from green scenery, although I have to admit on the third day I was a bit like 'argh, I'm fed up of having to keep dodging people in the street'. You have to constantly look where you're going or you will bump into someone.
I loved the whole atmosphere in London. I found it to be very magical and I loved how full of charm the city was. I would describe London as being modern and very patriotic. When in the city, I felt so proud to be British. There are so many shops selling 'London' merchandise which is nice.
There were so amazing sights to see. I had a lot of 'wow' moments, especially as I found the city to be so magical. I thought that it was great seeing the sights that I had only ever seen on television before; I.e. Big Ben, Tower of London and The London Eye. A lot of the sights which we saw were whilst we were on board the Big Bus Tours. I was looking forward to seeing Buckingham Palace although apparently buses aren't allowed up to the palace (only cars) which was a shame. Although we could have got off the bus at Buckingham Palace had we wanted, although because some members of our group had booked to go on the London Eye for a certain time in the afternoon, we didn't have time to get off at the Palace. Although next time I would definitely take a trip to the Palace.
Now I knew that London was famous for its red buses and black taxis, although I was surprised that everywhere you looked you could guarantee within around 2 or 3 seconds a red bus and a black taxi would whiz past. I was surprised that they were actually everywhere, and so no wonder London is associated with them.
Whilst on the subject of travel; I have to say London is so easy to get around as there is plenty of transport available. Such a huge comparison to where I live where the only means of transport is one 'bus service' which goes to town once a week, and comes back the same day! Once a week! So to have a bus available every couple of seconds is amazing! We actually went on the 'Big Bus Tours' (see my review) which were brilliant and took us pretty much everywhere we wanted to go.
We found the people to be very welcoming and very helpful. They were happy to help and give us directions which I thought was lovely.
Like the rest of Britain, the weather in London was very unpredictable. I had hoped that the weather would be lovely and hot like it had been the previous week, although it was actually very dull and we experienced light rain at times which was a shame. I'm sure the city would have looked much more beautiful had the weather been lovely.
One thing which was annoying, but to be expected in London was the fact that everything was expensive; all the tourist attractions we wanted to see were really expensive (London Eye, Madame Tussauds etc). Being a student on a budget, this was annoying.
Although, we did find some free things to do in London. Our hotel was located by Regent's Park and so we had a lovely afternoon walking through the park which was free. There are many parks in London, although this was the only one which we visited and would thoroughly recommend.
I was actually hoping that I would see some celebrities in London, although I was disappointed that I didn't see one!
London is definitely the kind of place which you can keep going back to. I think that as there is so much to do, each visit will be different as you will be seeing different things each time. Also, you will never get bored of London as there are so many things to do. I would definitely consider it a great place where you can spend a weekend every now and again.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to London and would definitely recommend it.
~ * Tips * ~
Keep your camera on you at all times! There is so much to see and you may bump into someone famous!
Taxis are quite cheap. We travelled around on the Big Bus Tours which cost us around £30 each for a whole day (as there were 6 of us, that worked out at £180 just for a bus). We enjoyed using the bus to get around, but considering that the 3 taxis we took cost just £8 for all of us per journey, we could have saved over a £100.
Carry your mobile phone at all times - it's so easy to get lost in the crowd and so its important that you can keep in touch.
I found London to be very clean - there was always lots of 'street cleaning' going on whilst we were there.
Be careful when crossing the road. We almost got knocked over when crossing the road!
Watch your bags at all times.
Thanks for reading!
Xdonzx / xd-o-n-z-x
I have lived in London virtually my whole life apart from a very brief period when i was away abroad for about 6 months. There will be some negative aspects to this review, but for the beginning I would like to focus on the positives. In some ways my own views will of course not reflect other peoples as each one of us is individual and have our own thoughts and opinions and different things that we may want from the place in which we live.
London is truly a magnificant city. I have certainly not been to that many other cities in the world; but from what i have seen i would rate London as being definitely in the top 3. (At the present time I rate Rome and New York within that 3). I think the reason is in regard to London, is that there is so much to do and to see. We also have a great history which people from many other countries seem to be intrigued by. For example.... we have a Royal family.... with plenty of history surrounding the Royal family, past and present being relevant to London. Now there will be some people who for whatever reasons are perhaps not keen on the Royal family... i have mixed views... but one thing i do like is that it gives us something to be proud of.
Well, where do i start? I shall start with my must see list...
~~~The Tower of London~~~; Its unique, so much history here (as well as the crown jewels). it is located close to Tower Hill Station; right next to The Thames. I think it is a great location.
Building started on The Tower of London in the 1070's
Some things to see at The Tower of London include; The White Tower; The Bloody Tower, The Ravens! The Beefeaters!, The Crown jewels, Yeomans (Beefeaters)warder tour, Medieval palace & Torture at the Tower
For further information including entrance fees see; http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/
~~The London Eye~~ (At day or Night).
The London eye was introduced to The South Bank in. It is a magnificent sight and a great addition to London. I have only been on it once when my children were much younger, but I really enjoyed it. You can see for miles around. You can also go on The London Eye at Night, which is supposed to be great too. Its 443 feet tall and was built in 1999.
~~~The South Bank of The Thames~~~
I love The South Bank. Its a lovely place in The Summer in particular. Along The South Bank there is loads to do and see including as previously mentioned The London Eye; The Royal Festival Hall, Tate Modern, The London Aquarium, various mime artists/acts along the The South Bank, trendy cafes and outside places to eat and drink. The National Theatre and plenty plenty more. Its buzzing with activity in the summer and just very pleasant to stroll along the Thames there, even if you havn't got much money.
~~The Imperial War museum~~
Close to The South Bank at Lambeth Road. If you like or are interested in anything to do with War; this is a must! Its great (and its free!!) apart from occasional exhibitions which you may have to pay extra to see.
~~Madam Tussauds ~~
Located a few yards down the road from Baker Street Station; Madame Tussauds in particular is extremely popular with tourists. A word of advice...in summer it gets very busy and you may not enjoy the Madame Tussaud experience, due to both very long queues and overcrowding. There are loads and loads of waxwork dummies, which are made extremely well. I would recommend visiting in Autum/Winter
~~Theatreland in Londons West End~~
If you are a very infrequent visitor to London, i would suggest that going to see a show or Theatre production is a must. We have some amazing old Theatres; as far as i'm concerned the best in the world. Personally i prefer going to the theatre than watching say a film at the cinema. There is nothing like seeing a live performance and a great play or show. It is extremely expensive though!!!!
~~Hampton Court Palace~~
This is King Henry V111' s former residence. whilst it is located in Surrey; you can get there by train and even by boat along The Thames. However, i remember the journey taking about 3 hours by riverboat. You are probably best going by car. Nearest station is Hampton Court. There are buses that go there too.
Maritime museum; The Cutty Sark; Greenwich park; a lovely area, also with some great little souvenir shops, pubs and cafes.
~~~Changing of the guard and Buckingham Palace~~~
Their changing guard at Buckingham Palace!
Usually taking place daily at 11.30am. Its free!
~~River Boat cruises~~
There are a few places on the Thames where you can hop on a Riverboat and travel short or longer journeys. (Westminster Pier, Tower Pier, Greenwich Pier and London Eye Pier. You can sometimes get drink and food on the boats too.
~~Other places to visit~~
You may wish to see Buckingham Palace. the Queens London residence. Who knows perhaps you will see her waving out of the window! You will know when she is in reisdence as the Union Flag will be flying . Buckingham Palace was built in 1702 and the first Monarch to reside there was Queen Victoria in 1837. It is open during the summer months from the end of July to Sepetmber. Unfortunately you wont be able to see all of the palace but just The State rooms.
~Leicester Square & Piccadilly Circus~~
Its a hive of activity here; some great places to eat; amazing cinemas!! where many of the film premieres are shown; good souvenir shops and The famous Trocadero http://www.londontrocadero.com/
China Town and Soho can be found here
Londons famous food market with great produce from the UK and Internationally.
Tooley Street/ London Bridge area. (with The London Dungeon) and The Britain at War Experience. There are loads of old pubs and eateries here too. Also worth seeing is The London Bridge experience
~~Whats free in London?~~
In my view there are definately some free things which are well worth seeing.
The Museums at Kensington; Natural History, Science, Victoria & Albert.
The Museums are great, very interesting and best of all..... free! There are plenty of hands on things to do, particularly in The Science Museum (which is my personal favourite) Each museum will sometimes have special exhibitions which you may have to pay extra for.
~~The British Museum~~
There are various artifacts from around the Globe housed at The British Museum. They also have exhibitions although you usually have to pay to see these. Its located in Great Russell Street, near to Holborn Underground Station. Well worth visiting.
You can be entertained for free here with various street artists and acts. Its a great place though of course gets busy.
Its great looking at this magnificant clock which was completed in 1858 in. Its just over the road from Westminster Underground Station.
~~The Royal Gardens~~
St James' Park
These parks really are lovely, my favourite being Hyde Park and The Serpentine Lake. I remember when i used to work in London many moons ago; us all going out at lunch and taking a boat out on The Serpentine. We sort of forgot about the time and ended up getting back very late for work!! It was great fun though.
~~~Shopping in London~~
You really are spoilt for choice here!! You can find all the big named stores and some of their largest stores nationwide in Londons Oxford Street . You'll have a great time shopping (if you don't mind the crowds!)
~~Some fantastic and unique and quirky shops here~~
Make sure you have a full wallet if you plan on going shopping here! You will find Harvey Nichols and Harrods here.
Bond Street, Mayfair (Also very expensive!)
Regent Street; more great shops including the magnificant Hamleys Toy Store.
Carnaby Street; lots of uniques shops can be found here.
Kings Road, Chelsea; some great independant clothes and shoe shops here
Camden and its market; To be honest I rarely go here; i dont like the area; its pretty grimey, but there are some great shops here and the Market is very well known. You will find plenty of alternative fashions and interesting products. It is extremely trendy and gets busy both during the day and night. There are lots of pubs/clubs around where you can enjoy plenty of live music.
Portobello Road ('The Worlds Largest Antique Market') http://www.portobelloroad.co.uk/
Well worth visiting.
There are countless pubs and nightclubs; also comedy venues and live music. There are far too many places to mention here; but take a look at this link and you'll get some good information;
There are thousands of restaurants and places to eat; from fast foods to fine dining. You will i am sure find what you are looking for in regards to eating out!! Again look at this website for full information http://www.londontown.com/restaurants
There are of course Londons Buses; they will take you all over the place, and many travel quite long distances out into the suburbs
London Underground; You can get to all the attractions and sights quickly (unless there are delays which there sometimes are!!). Its important to mention that on most weekends some lines are closed due to repairs/upgrades. Also prepare to be packed in like sardines, especially at rush hours or if in Central London areas, particularly in the main tourist season.
A few things have been briefly mentioned already. London is very highly populated. It is tgo populated for my liking and ideally i would much rather live near the sea or in the countryside! But thats another story!
It is also very fast paced. You almost can't help but rushing around all over the place and everyone is always in a hurry. This creates stress which isn't good for the health!
Its very expensive to live here, even in the suburbs of London Housing costs a fortune. Renting is very expensive too. If you are fortunate you may be able to get Council Housing. I say fortunate because it is in extremely short supply.
London really is a great city; there is so much to do and to see. To have a good standard of living in London you really do need money! I can't remember the last time i went to The Theatre, simply due to the cost, but i do intend on going again one day because its fantastic. It will just have to be something i save up for!
There is alot more to see than i have talked about in this review, but i would be here all night writing about it!
Really all age ranges can enjoy London. There's something for everyone.
For me i would, if i could, live away from London, somewhere alot quieter and more relaxing with a nice view; but then again, maybe thats because im not wealthy and im getting old!!
I just prefer the quieter things in life now. However, to visit London is great and you can have a fantastic time here.
I think London overall is worth a 4 star rating. Its a very multicultural place and pretty amazing. I won't award it the full five stars due to the reasons i have already mentioned.
If you live away from London and you have never been.... i'm sure you'll have a great time... just be prepared for the costs and the crowds!!
London could be considered one of the most international cities in the world. I have travelled extensively around the world however there are few places like London. With the cosmopolitan and diverse population, London is the central meeting point for people all over Europe and the world. Many friends from Europe have told me that they prefer London to other cities such as Paris, Rome, Madrid... In London one can eat out at an extensive range of international cuisine from traditional English fish and chips, to Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, basically anything.
However while there are many positives, London has some major flaws. A friend of mine from a country outside of Europe once told that he doesn't find the women in London either attractive or appealing. Having thought about it I would have to agree especially in comparison to Tokyo.
There's lots of sightseeing to do and interesting places to see. I recommend fish and chips at a traditional pub. As a tourist one won't be disappointed.
Sometimes i absolultely love London, and sometimes i cant even stand being there. I dont live there but i do like to go at least once a year. People's thoughts about the capital will all depend on when they go and what they do while theyre there.
Last time i went was 2 days after Christmas 08 and i can safely say i will never go there again during the sales!! I was meeting a friend from Canada and a friend from France at the time so i cant complain about the company at all. Neither of them had been to London before so it was all down to me to entertain them and do the tourist stuff with them. (Not that i complained at the time). I havent even done all the tourist things myself but i showed them what i could.
Somewhere i really wanted to take them was Harrods but i really wish i hadnt now. There were queues all along the side of the shop for the Gucci sale but luckily we didnt wait in this. Once inside it was manic! You couldnt really have a good look around because of the amounts of people everywhere, especially in the food courts and the perfume department. We litterally had to fight our way through the crowds. Im sure the sales were fantastic but we never really got to see much of them.
Im going to do this is 2 parts. Things i love and things i hate!
Great things in London!
1. The shows - Ive been to a couple of West End shows now including Grease and Dirty Dancing. Tickets can be extremely expensive but shop around the half price shops in Leicester Square and you're bound to get a good deal. You can normally get pretty decent seats for about £25 but can pay more if you want better ones. My advice would be to go early in the day though to get the best deals. From about 3pm everywhere starts selling out and ive had to take what was left just so i could see something.
2. Can be done on a very tight budget - Getting to London and paying for a hotel isnt cheap so i like to do as many free or extremely cheap things as i can while im there. Most of the museums etc are free but ask for donations. I dont mind giving a couple of quid as a donation because i thoroughly enjoy myself looking around and they can easily take up a full day.
3. Places to eat - In the city center you can get any food imiginable really. Great thing especially if everyone likes different things. There's always something for everyone. Although prices are more expensive than anywhere else in the country it all depends on what you're willing to spend. There are loads of pizza places in Piccadilly Circus which are cheap but of course sit down restaurants will always end up costing more.
Bad things about London!
1. After Christmas sales - As you can see from the start of this review, im not a big fan of the sales in London. There are just far too many people around fighting for items in Harrods and the designer shops because their sales are just too good. Ive been to the sales in Manchester before and would easily choose going there over London any day.
2. When they kids are off school - If you actually want to look around museums (especially the Science Museum) don't go when the kids are off. You wont be able to see much of anything or try out any of the experiments because everywhere is swarming with kids. Choose you're attractions well if you plan to go at these times because there will be huge queues all over london and you'll end up wasting a lot of your time.
3. There's so much to do! - Now i know this is normally a good thing but there's too much choice sometimes. Ive been going to london for the past 4 years now and im still yet to see everything that i want. It's very tiring if you try to fit too much into the time you have and you'll find yourself needing more time off work etc just to get over your trip. My trip at Christmas near enough killed me trying to fit so much into 2 days for my foreign friends. Take comfortable shoes and even a 2nd pair of good ones. My most comfortable shoes even hurt me after walking around from 9am till about 11pm.
Everyone needs to go to London at some point but just make sure you plan your time really well and give yourself time to sit down!
Having lived in London for a couple of years now and before then being a frequent visitor I thought that it was about time I wrote a tourist guide to London.
This review is based on my experiences of London and there are still a lot of great things in London that I haven't had a chance to try, so obviously they will not be included in this review.
This is going to be a really long review so I've written a contents.
-Getting to London
-Transport in London
-Getting to London-
Getting to London is pretty easy. Assuming you are already in the UK you can either drive, get a bus or a train. I have done all three and my preference is to get the train.
Driving into Central London can be very stressful. In my experience the traffic is awful and you always have to worry about congestion charges.
The congestion charge is basically something that you pay if you drive in certain areas of London during certain times. For more information on the congestion charge check out tfl.gov.uk. I've also found that driving around London it is really easy to get lost, even with a sat nav!
Getting a bus into Central London is slightly less stressful than driving. You still have the traffic jams but at least you can sit back and relax and not worry about congestion charges or getting lost. I have travelled with both megabus and national express. If you are going to travel by bus then definitely go with national express.
My experience of travelling with mega bus is not a good one. I travelled with mega bus because the tickets were only £1 each way but when you travel with them you can see why they're so cheap.
The buses are uncomfortable and have little space for storing luggage. The buses don't run as regularly as national express and they do add on a booking fee of 50p which isn't much but it is a bit cheeky when they're claiming that you can travel for £1 each way. It also takes a long time to get to London compared with other forms of transport.
National Express on the other hand is quite a pleasant way to travel. The only real downside to it is that it takes so long to get to London and that you're stuck on a bus where you can't walk around or do anything for hours. This is of course the same with any buses that you get to London.
I have found that a lot of National Express drivers are very unfriendly and often rude. I've seen people literally reduced to tears by them and I'm not even exaggerating. I've found at times that they can be quite intimidating. It was for this reason that I started to take the train instead of using national express.
Their buses are generally quite comfortable and they have plenty of space for luggage. You can actually buy tickets for £1 if you book early, so the prices are even competitive.
And now onto trains, my preferred way to travel. I would always recommend to book trains in advance because you can get really good prices, and even upgrade to first class for less than the cost of a standard ticket. The tickets still aren't as cheap as travelling with the megabus but I personally think it's worth the extra money.
The first advantage is the time it takes to travel. Travelling by train is the fastest way to travel and there are many direct routes from the various train stations in London. I personally would much rather pay more to get somewhere faster.
I find trains to be the most comfortable way to travel but this actually depends a lot on where you're travelling to.
If you're travelling to the South West or South Wales then be sure to book in advance if you're travelling during peak hours, or even better, book first class. First class on these routes is amazing and often very cheap. You get free food, much more space and if you're travelling on a Friday night free wine. Travelling from Paddington you also get access to the first class lounge.
If you do opt for standard class you will often find yourself packed into a carriage with people having to stand in the aisles and the spaces in between carriages. If you've booked a seat this isn't too bad but standing for an entire journey is pretty unpleasant. You can avoid this by travelling in the middle of the day. These trains do have a travelling chef on board so you can buy drinks, sandwiches and other snacks.
If you're travelling to the south east then you won't be so lucky. The trains are not as comfortable and buying a first class ticket is a waste of money because the first class area is not much better. I find these trains a little bit too intimate. There is very little space between the seats that are facing each other and the seats themselves are not very big. Most seats do not have tables and there is very little space to store luggage.
You can't book seats in advance on these trains so you're lucky if you get a seat.
They do have a little cart that they use to sell drinks and snacks but during busy times they don't have space to wheel it down the train.
I don't really travel anywhere else in the UK so can't comment on trains to other parts of the country.
-Transport in London-
When you compare transport in London to other parts of the UK (or the parts that I've visited) it seems great, when you compare it to other European cities it seems awful!
I actually find getting around London to be quite easy. The underground can get you to just about anywhere in London and it doesn't take too long.
There are some lines that are better than others. I personally think that the Victoria line is the best one because it's just so quick. Likewise there are some lines that I try to stay away from. I find that the Bakerloo and Circle lines are both very unreliable and I always try to avoid them.
Admittedly the tube isn't the most pleasant way to travel. It's dirty, it's uncomfortable and it's overcrowded but it's still the quickest and easiest way to travel around London.
Please do make sure that you check out when certain lines are going to be closed as they do tend to do works on the lines at the weekends and often close one or more tube line (I've been caught out many times!)
I often opt to travel by bus now that I know London better but I wouldn't recommend this to tourists. Although it does cost less and the bus routes are quite extensive it isn't as convenient as travelling by tube. It has some great benefits, like not being stuck underground and actually being able to see London when you travel. I've also found that it helps me to get a better sense of where I am and to understand the layout of London more.
There are a lot of night buses if you're travelling after the tube has stopped running.
The most important thing to do in terms of transport when you get to London is to buy an oyster card. With an oyster card you get discounted travel and you can use it on buses and the underground.
For more information on transport in London go to tfl.gov.uk
There are always plenty of taxi's around central London if you need to flag one down, although you will probably have difficulty finding one on Friday or Saturday nights. This is a pretty expensive way to travel so if money is an issue for you stick to public transport. I rarely take taxi's and when I do I'm always shocked at how much they cost in London compared to other places.
I would not recommend using the rickshaws. I always wanted to go in one and did so last year but it was really unpleasant. Weaving through traffic on the back of a bike is a pretty scary experience and it's also really uncomfortable. It's not a safe way to travel and is of course only suitable for short journeys.
There is so much to see and do in London and you will never be able to do it all in one day. I've lived here for years now and still haven't seen everything that I want to see.
I would highly recommend taking one of the London Tour Buses. There are a lot of stops all over the city and you can get on and off the bus as you wish. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and I found them to be very amusing. They literally had me in stitches at times. Some, of course, are better than others but in general I've found them all to be very charismatic, well spoken (you wouldn't want a guide who mumbled!) and helpful. In my opinion this is the best way to see the city. If you don't have much of an idea about what you want to do then I would recommend just hopping on one of these buses and seeing what takes your fancy. Even if you decide not to visit any attractions you will end the tour with a much improved knowledge of London. I wouldn't take young children on this tour as they will most likely get bored but I have been on the tour with children aged from about ten years upwards and they all really enjoyed it.
I have written a number of reviews on some great places in London and there doesn't seem to be much point in repeating what I've already said but here is my list of the best places to see in London:
1. London Dungeon. The London Dungeon is a great afternoon or morning out but as the name suggests it can be pretty scary. I'm not a brave person but I have made it through this a couple of times, so obviously it's not that scary but probably not suitable for young children. The thing I like most about it is that it's so educational. I just love having fun and learning at the same time and there is no better place to learn about history while enjoying yourself than the London Dungeon. http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/sightseeing-national/london-dungeon/1149004/
2. Covent Garden. I love going to Covent Garden and could literally spend an entire day there. I don't particularly enjoy shopping but there are a lot of nice and unusual shops there, as well as a market, that keeps even people like me interested. For me the best part of Covent Garden is the street entertainment. If you go during the day you will often find a variety of different performers around Covent Garden and there is usually something to entertain everybody. I also really enjoy sitting in one of their outdoor café/restaurants watching the world go by. In the winter these café's have heaters and some shelter so whatever the weather you can sit there and people watch.
3. Victoria and Albert Museum. This is my favourite museum in London and whenever I decide that it's time to go to a different museum I somehow always end up wishing that I'd just stuck with V&A. This is more of an adult museum and not one that I would recommend for families. The reason why I enjoy it so much is because I love looking at all of the different collections from around the world, particularly those that are based around religions.. For those of you who have a thirst for knowledge this museum would be perfect for you. It's quite big and houses a number of diverse collections. I find the building itself to be very attractive. http://www.vam.ac.uk/
4. Natural History Museum. This museum is fantastic for those who either have an interest in dinosaurs or fossils or for people with children. I actually don't find this subject to be that interesting but I love taking young relatives to this museum to see the moving dinosaurs. I still remember being completely awed by them as a child and although as an adult they aren't nearly as impressive as they were it's still a lot of fun to take children to see them. Please note that the museum is free but you do have to pay to see the moving dinosaurs.
5. Madame Tussauds. When I think about what Madam Tussauds is it sounds really boring. A museum full of wax works of famous people is not something that sounds appealing to me at all but I have been there three times and always had an excellent time. There are some parts that aren't suitable for children so please do keep that in mind if you're visiting with family. I've been there with some children who found the wax works scary so that's another thing to consider. However, for the most part everyone I've been there with has enjoyed it immensely.
6. The London Eye. Although for the majority of the flight your view is obscured by other capsules when you get to the top this attraction offers you amazing views of London. It is a bit expensive but I think it's possible to get tickets combined with other attractions or discounts. I certainly wouldn't pay full price for it but if you can get a discount then it's worth doing. http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/sightseeing-national/london-eye/1148917/
7. The Tower of London. This is by far my favourite attraction in London. I love history and the Tower is just full of it! Included in the ticket price is a guided tour that was by far the best part of the day. I had such a great time that I'm planning to go back as soon as I have some time. http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/museums-national/tower-of-london-the/1166996/
8. China Town. I love going to China Town for dinner because in my opinion you get the best Chinese food there. I've tried a number of restaurants in the area and to be honest they're all pretty much the same to me. The food tastes good in all of them, they all have friendly staff and quick service and the prices are all pretty similar. As well as restaurants there are a number of bakeries where you can get Chinese cakes and desserts. I can't comment on how authentic any of it is because I've never visited China.
9. The Houses of Parliament. I love visiting the Houses of Parliament. As I said I love history and I also enjoy politics and you get both with a trip to the Houses of Parliament. If you get the opportunity to take a tour then do it. I learnt so much from my tour and left feeling like I had connected with the history of democracy in this country. It probably sounds a bit melodramatic but it was such a great experience and really renewed my enthusiasm in politics and democracy. For those of you who are more visual it is a very attractive building and is just as impressive inside.
I would have liked to have written a section on accommodation but I live here now and before I nearly always stayed in the Regents Park Marriott. http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/hotels-national/marriott-hotels-in-general/1166379/
I would have also liked to include a guide to eating in London but it's such a big place that I wouldn't be able to write an adequate guide. In general I would say that if you're looking for something cheap in central London just go for one of the chain restaurants where prices are the same as they are outside of London. If you can afford to spend a little bit more then London has some excellent independent restaurants and café's. Finding a place to eat should not be a problem because there are always plenty of places around. Most attractions do have their own café's and restaurants attached which tend to be of poor quality and quite expensive but they are very convenient. Do be aware that most places charge for service.
If, like me, you love musicals then London would be a great place for you to visit. There are musicals on six days a week (Monday-Saturday). I would highly recommend both Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You. With both of them expect weak storylines but fantastic music and dancing. I found both of them to be highly entertaining, even though I felt that the storylines were lacking.
Like in all big cities there is a lot of crime in London and you do have to protect yourself against it by taking the usual precautions (keeping purses hidden, not putting yourself in dangerous situations).
It isn't the cleanest city you will find, especially compared to many European cities but it is generally quite an attractive city, in my opinion. There are a lot of attractions and there's always something for everyone to enjoy.
One thing you have to say about London and that is that you can never get bored visiting the place as there is simply so much to do and despite the moans by the inhabitants it is also very easy to get around thanks to its excellent tube system supported by buses, taxes nd also those little cycle cabs that populate the tourist areas.
While it is crowded and not the most breah taking of places visually there is so much history around you that it is well worth a visit.
London has a great nightlife with loads of great clubs for dancing and partying and lots of bars, there is a great theatre district to see some quality plays and musicals as well as opera and dance.
London has a large number of free museums to visit, the Natural History and the Science Museum are two of my favourites. You also have all that history like Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London as well as the Parliament buildings to see.
There are some great parks to see a bit of greenery as well as Londo Zoo and you always have the option of a bat ride along the Thames to Greenwich.
Shopping is superb with everything from the up market Harvey Nics to good old vibrant Camden Market, you really are spoilt for choice and of course for sports fans there is plenty to see as well.
London has loads to offer both foreign and domestic travellers and is well worth visiting.
I have a very good friend in London who I have visited regularly for the last few years. Whilst in London I like to see and do different things but there are a few things that I keep returning for. I really enjoy a weekend in London as I can get away from the stress of work and life in Cornwall and head off for an action packed weekend...I always return feeling like I need another holiday to get over the hectic weekend!
A is for Aquarium
Living near the cost I am interested in sea life, The aquarium in London is situated on the South Bank of the River Thames. The aquarium is amazing. It is set out on 3 floors and contains many species of both popular, well known species and more exotic species. The sharks are amazing and it is possible to get up so close. It is also possible to get up close to the rays and visitors are able touch them as they swim past.
B is for Big Ben
Most people call the large tower connected to the Houses of Parliament Big Ben however the clock tower does not have a name. The name Big Ben is given to the large bell inside the clock tower.
The tower and Big Ben was erected in 1834. The tower has a clock face on all four sides and many people will set their watches to this time believing that the time is the most accurate timepiece in London. The tower is really impressive to look at and is a popular photo opportunity for sightseers, however people leave London showing pictures of 'Big Ben 'when they have not actually seen it.
C is for Chelsea
Chelsea is probably the most affluent area of Central London, it always amazes me how large the houses are, how expensive the shops seem and how impressive the cars look whilst driving past in the coach.
Chelsea is also home to the flower festival held each year.
D is for Dungeons
I have been to the dungeons twice and each time I have had a brilliant time. I usually hate scary things and hate seeing/reading about gory things and torture methods. I loved the London Dungeons as the history was very interesting. There was a lot to do and I thought the boat ride to hell was amazing. I think the dungeons are my favorite London attraction.
E is for Eye
The London Eye stands 135 metres tall along the South Bank of the Thames. The London Eye is the biggest ferris wheel in the whole of Europe. The wheel was constructed in 1999 and has 32 capsules each able to carry 25 passengers. I have been on the eye twice, once at night and once during the day. During the summer it can get quite hot inside the capsule but the experience is amazing. It is really exhilarating and gives you the opportunity so see London from above.
F is for Free Newspaper
The Metro is a paper handed out on street corners and are positioned in baskets around the tub stations. The Metro has information about upcoming events in and around London and the headlines. I think this is great for commuters to read whilst waiting for tubes, or whilst sat on the tube.
The Metro is quite interesting, however being a Cornish Bumpkin I find the news quite depressing after all the news down here tends to be "Seagull stuck on roof - 4 fire crews were sent out to attend the stressed bird" a far cry from the streets of London where headlines read "stabbed", "murdered" and "mugged". That said I do love London and a trip there now and again is a welcome break from the boring countryside.
G is for Gherkin
Or under its real name - 30 St. Mary Ave or even Swiss Re Tenor - the building is a 160M high skyscraper with 40 floors in the financial area of London. The skyscraper has been named the 'gherkin' due to its shape. Many have likened the gherkin to a phallic symbol, although I think its a rather large one. The skyscraper was built in 2001-2003 and attracts many tourists wanting to take photos of the building.
H is for History
I find the history surrounding London very interesting. Many of the events I used to teach in history at school were all based in or around London.
The Great Plague - The Great Plague killed over 70,000 people in 1665, and was known thereafter as 'The Black Death'. It was quite chilling to think that I was stood on the ground where thousands were buried in makeshift pits.
The Great Fire of London - This fire started out in Pudding Lane in 1666, only a year after the plague. The fire also managed t kill off a lot of the rats that carried the Bubonic Plague meaning that the streets were safer from disease.
Gunpowder Plot - We have just celebrated fireworks, however it is easy to forget why we celebrate it. The traditions of 'penny for the Guy' seem to have died out in some places. Learning about the story brings it all back into context. London really has a really varied but well known history.
Other historical events have been etched on the City and the effects are evident throughout the streets of London. From the battle of Trafalgar to the Blitz, these events have resulted in memorial statues and place names. There are also museums dedicated to educating others about the events.
I is for Interesting
I personally find London a very interesting place. Everywhere you look there is a piece of history captured by a statue, marking or building. Place names have origins dating back to as early as the first century and the way of life can be inspiring.
J is for Jack the Ripper
As previously mentioned I am quite interested in London's history including the dark, gloomy and scary type. The infamous Jack the Ripper prowled the streets of London killing prostitutes in the area. In the years 1888-1891 people feared the name "Jack the Ripper" after 11 victims were found dead, only 5 of these victims were linked to Ripper, however at the time everyone feared that he may have been responsible for the murders named "Whitechapel murders". to this date the identity of the infamous murderer is still unknown. It is possible to meet with a t our group after sun set to retrace the steps made my Jack the Ripper, I am personally not brave enough to encounter this but am sure it is very interesting.
K is for Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace is a royal residence situated in the grounds of Kensington Gardens. It has been the residence of the Royal Family since the 17th Century. The Palace is beautiful and the gardens look amazing. It almost makes you wish you were related to the Royal Family. Kensington is a beautiful part of London and whilst visiting London with my Brownie pack we stayed in Kensington and always felt safe.
L is for London Bridge
Today London Bride stands tall above the Thames a big Iron structure, it hasn't always been this way, and whilst researching the nursery rhyme a few years ago for college I noticed that there was some truth in the rhyme "London Bridge is Falling Down".
In the first century London Bridge was made from wood and clay as stated in the children nursery rhyme. After the invasion of the Vikings, the bridge needed to be fortified to make it stronger. In the 1300's the bride was built from stone and contained many shops. London Bridge is still standing although the original bridge has now been moved stone by stone a new, stronger bridge was built in its place.
M is for Monopoly
Since a young age I have loved playing monopoly, on my trips to London I have enjoyed spotting places mentioned on the monopoly board. I have always wanted to take part in one of the many charity events that involve looking for place names on the monopoly board and taking pictures. What a great way to see the City!
N is for Number 10
A few years ago I visited number 10 with a group of kids, I don't know what I was expecting to see but the black door with the brass number "10" was nothing special.
This door belongs to the prime minister - when I visited that door belonged to Tony Blair it now belongs to Gordon Brown. The streets are very well kept along there and many guards protect the large black gates. As boring as it was its something I won't forget, not may people get the chance to stand on the Prime Ministers doorstep.
O is for Olympics
In 2012, the Olympics will be hosted in London. The site has started to take shape and on my recent visit to the city I was amazed to see the size of the site and just how much more work will need to be done before the event, still it is taking shape and I can't wait to visit again in a year to see the progress make.
P is for Paddington Bear
The lovable bear Paddington, best known for his love of marmalade sandwiches (now Marmite I must add) was named after Paddington Train Station where he was found by the Brown Family. The story created by Michael Bond was inspired by the events during the war where thousands of evacuees left the city on trains bound for the countryside.
Q is for Queen
The queen - I couldn't really write a review about London without mentioning the queen. The Queen is major reason why thousands of tourists flock to the capital year after year. Tourists will visit Buckingham Palace in the hope that they will catch a glimpse of the queen and the guards. I must admit I do enjoy visiting Buckingham Palace and seeing the flawless guards and immaculate horses.
R is for Red Bus
Love them or hate them red buses are a token souvenir for most tourists. Many sightseers stop to take photos of the many red buses driving through the roads of London. I travelled via bus and must say the experience was rather scary and very unpleasant. The overcrowded buses were hot and smelly...what a great advert for such a nice city.
S is for St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral is a cathedral on Ludgate Hill The present building dates from the 17th century, and is generally thought to be London's fourth St Paul's Cathedral, although the number is higher if every major medieval reconstruction is counted as a new cathedral.
T is for Tower of London
The Tower of London is a historic monument in central London, England, on the north bank of the River Thames. The Tower was used as a prison for people who had committed a crime. The Tower is well known by many as the place people were imprisoned hanged and beheaded. The bloody torture chamber as seen at the London Dungeons is a very eerie place. You can stand on the execution site of three English queens and hear the myths and legends, I have enjoyed hearing some of the ghost stories and learning more about the Tower's bloody history.
U is for Underground
A very clever system of tunnels situated underground (although many stations are above ground) linking major boroughs and parts of the city. The London Underground can appear very confusing but it is a useful and effective way for commuters to get around the city.
V is for Victoria
OK so I am struggling a little bit now BUT on my visits to London I travel by coach and Victoria Train and Coach Stations are amazing. I find that on entering the City I can start enjoying my stay straight away as the two are conveniently close to each other and the shops are amazing. Victoria Train Station alone has more shops alone than a major shopping centre in the South West.
W is for Westminster
X is for Xmas Shopping
It that time of year where people start shopping for gifts for the festive season. Whilst in London two months ago I started buying a few gifts for Christmas knowing that if I waited until nearer the time I wouldn't have had so much choice. I managed to have a lovely time browsing shops and buying gifts for everyone. I also love the Christmas lights in London. I visited London two years ago and the lights are so spectacular, especially some of the shop windows.
Y is for youth hostels
If you are planning to visit London but are on a tight budget there are some lovely, secure youth hostels around where you can rest your head for the night. Why spend lots of money on an expensive, overpriced hotel. The money you save on accommodation can be used to see more sights and get into more attractions.
Z is for Zoo
On my last visit to London I visited the zoo, the experience was amazing. The animals were so well looked after and it was easy to get close to some of them. The zoo is very well designed and although shattered at the end of my visit I thoroughly enjoyed my day. I think I have probably mentioned the word 'history' in two thirds of my reviews but I most enjoyed hearing about the history of the zoo and the many animals that have managed to escape from the zoo and cause havoc around London.
5 hours ago I thought it would be great to review London in general, I though an A-Z guide to the city would be a great way to express my opinion on the attractions and landmarks in and around London.
SO...To sum up this review, I can say that London is a truly magical place to visit on holiday. I can't say I'd particularly like to live there but for a weekend it's a great place to visit.
London is expensive, everybody knows it. But as far as a tourist visit goes, the best things in London are free!
What follows is my own tour of important London free of charge sights and attractions. Get sturdy shoes, drink and food, a rainproof and sunglasses and let's get going, starting with a walk that would take in a lot of major sights.
As you proceed, you might see places, attractions and buildings that you want to return to (some will be free, some paid for), make note of those. I will point out some - especially free ones - as we go along.
**Victoria & Westminster**
Depending on when you are staying, take a tube or walk to Victoria. Walk up The Buckingham Palace Road to Buckingham Palace. Have a look at the guards - you might actually catch the ceremony of Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace which takes place roughly every two days at approximately 11:15 am. It's crowded and long, but can be worth the look for the whole absurdity of the whole ornate pageant Check the schedule at
Thus entertained, walk down to have a look at Queen Victoria's monument and enter St James Park. Walk along the lovely ponds in the park, all the way down to the Horse Guards Parade and cross the parade ground towards the Horse Guards building to emerge at the Whitehall. Admire more guards in more fancy hats (you can take photos with those ones, both mounted and pedestrian and walk down a little bit to have a peek at number 10 Downing Street, now sadly barriered off, where the British Prime Minister lives and holds office. Whitehall itself is the street where the heaviness of Imperial government still hangs in the air.
As you get closer to the river, you will get near Westminster. You could spend at least half a day just here, in what is one of the oldest centres of population in London (it used to be a separate settlement form the City of London) and traditionally the heart of its power. The formidable Imperial administration buildings behind you, you are now facing two of perhaps the most iconic buildings in London.
The first is Westminster Abbey, the traditional place of coronation and a burial site for English monarchs and a magnificent Gothic church in itself (as well as place of burial for many other notable personages in British history and culture, from Charles Darwin to Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens to Peggy Ashcroft). You can walk round the building and round the cloisters for free, but the The Abbey itself costs £10 to enter, unless you are attending a service there, itself an interesting experience, and the choir is excellent.
The schedule can be found here: http://www.westminster-abbey.org/worship/services/
The second building is the Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster), a magnificent neo-Gothic edifice gracing the Thames bank, with its famous Clock Tower (that's where the Big Ben is located). There are paid-for tours in the summer (when the Commons and Lords don't sit) but when the Parliament is in session, visitors can observe the proceedings from the public gallery for free. Waiting in a public queue is the only way to get access for foreign visitors (outside St Stephen's entrance, up to 2 hours waiting time), while UK residents can get tickets from their MP.
**The South Bank and Tate Modern**
By now you have walked more than 1.5 miles and might be wanting a break, but I would urge you to go a bit further. Cross the river using the Westminster bridge and turn left on the other side. You are now on the South Bank and you can walk along the embankment that affords a fantastic view of the opposite bank with its iconic buildings. Pass The County Hall and walk towards the London Eye. Select a bench for your stop, snack and a drink and then walk on to admire (from the outside) the biggest Ferris Wheel in the world.
As you get to Hungerford Bridge (an old Brunel rail bridge flanked by twin modern suspension footbridges commemorating the Golden Jubilee) you will be passing the large and concrete-looking but surprisingly user friendly South Bank complex, comprising the National Theatre, BFI Southbank (formerly known as the National Film Theatre), Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Hayward and few other spaces and venues. None of the major performances are free, but you can often catch street performers outside or free shows inside the foyers of the major spaces, especially in the lunchtime period. Venture inside, and there is plenty of leaflets and posters available that will tell you what's on.
If you have had enough, you can walk to Waterloo station from here or cross the river to Embankment (tube) & Charing Cross (tube & rail) stations.
Otherwise (or the next day, as you start from this point), potter about this surprisingly restful, traffic free area. Browse through the wares of the second-hand booksellers in front of the BFI (under the shelter afforded by the Waterloo Bridge).
If not, walk on. We are still on the South bank of the Thames, and as you walk the relatively uneventful bit between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges, you can see the panorama on the opposite bank changing. The City, with its mixture of old churches dotted in the sea of 19th century and very modern office buildings is looming. St Paul's becomes visible quite near and the Nat West tower and Gherkin feature clearly in the skyline.
As you cross under the Blackfriars bridge, you will clearly see the stark building that used to be a power station and now houses one of the temples of modern art, The Tate Modern. As most major museums in the capital of the UK, this one is free of charge and eminently worth visiting: if you like modern art, you will be back for a longer tour not preceded by a 3 mile walk, if you don't like modern art, still walk in and have a look at least at the Turbine Hall, usually full of some giant installation of exhibit and an awe-inducing space by itself.
Tate Modern is another good point to break the tour, especially if you spent any time inside. The nearest tube station is Southwark (further south) or Blackfriars (over the bridge).
Before you go, though, have a look 150 yards on at the modern reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre, named "Shakespeare's Globe Theatre" or "New Globe Theatre".
**St Paul's, The City and Maritime Greenwich**
The next point on our route is St Paul's Cathedral and the City, and to visit that we need to cross the Millennium foot bridge from Tate Modern back to the north bank of the Thames. The views of the river, and the city, both downstream and upstream are magnificent, and the Millennium Bridge affords a reasonable approach to the cathedral, normally cramped by nearby buildings. But you can, of course, just take a tube to Blackfriars or St Paul's and ignore the riverside approach.
I used to live less than a mile from St Paul's, just north of the Barbican and sometimes travelled from work by train via Cannon Street station, and then took a bus from a stop just by the cathedral. Initially, I wasn't that impressed, the building seemed severe and boring to me, but slowly, slowly its harmonious beauty worked its magic. St Paul's is really a beautiful building and one of the must-sees in London. You don't have to go inside (though it's worth doing, but it costs £10, opens Monday to Saturday 08.30am to 4pm, unless you attend a service, check for those at http://xrl.us/bjhvj), but you have to see its outside magnificence. The best day to see St Paul's (in fact, to do anything in the City) is a Saturday or a Sunday, when the area is free of workers that normally fill the offices of financial institutions there (though there is a buzz of tourists round the cathedral, of course).
You can walk round the City after visiting St Paul's, especially if you are into 17th century churches or engaged in ethnographic observation of bond traders' and similar tribes, but if time is short I suggest you catch a bus (stop SK) number 15 which will take you along Cannon Street all the way down to The Tower of London.
Now, the Tower is is certainly not free to enter, in fact it's probably one of the most ridiculously overpriced attractions in London (and in the whole of Britain) a the whooping £16.50 per adult. But you can walk around it for free, and you can see quite a lot of this rather grim building, an old jail and torture house, now sold to the tourists as one of the jewels in the crown of British heritage.
The one building that's even more strongly associated with London than the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben Tower must be the Tower Bridge, a rather strange looking (and originally described as absurd, tawdry and pretentious) structure but a doubtless landmark. You can cross that on foot and have another look at the river (I never tired of the river in London!) and walk for a while on the south bank again, taking in the new semi-spherical building of the London City Hall and the old battleship HMS Belfast.
Or you can walk back to the Tower Gateway station and take one of the Dockland Light Railway driverless trains to Greenwich (you have to change at Westferry). This will give you an excellent look at what used to be a very busy port and is now a modern financial and residential area, while taking you to Maritime Greenwich, a World Heritage Site, the home to Royal Observatory, Greenwich Mean Time and the Meridian Line. Amazingly, National Maritime Museum, Queen's House and Royal Observatory. All have free admission and, with the Greenwich Park around them, offer a great day out.
**The West End**
By now you must have been wondering, why I have not mentioned all the famous London locations from the very centre: Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus, Oxford Street, the theatre land and so on.
The main reason is because the West End is rather pointless when you don't intend to spend money, unless of course you are one of those strange people who enjoy looking at merchandise for the sake of looking. Most of these places are either directly or indirectly about shopping or eating out or paid entertainment and thus not very rewarding for somebody counting pennies.
Still, I suppose there is no avoiding that. Take the tube to Green Park and walk down Piccadilly towards Picadilly Circus. You will pass The Ritz, Burlington Arcade and Fortnum and Mason amongst other locations of conspicuous consumption, and after about 700 yards you'll get to Piccadilly Circus which is one of the most overrated spots in London: noisy, trafficky, boring and with no attraction I can think of whatsoever apart from the sheer idea of visiting an iconic location, of course.
Walk away from Picadilly Circus via Shaftesbury Avenue, leaving Soho on your left, turn right into the big Chinese arch and walk down to Leicester Square via the Chinatown. Leicester Sq is also boring, but you can at least claim you've been this way.
Walk down via Irving Street and St Martin's Place, passing the rather lovely St Martin-in-the-Fields church (free tour normally on Thursdays at 11.30am, book on 02078398362) and the entrance to National Portrait Gallery (free and interesting, but not perhaps on the must-see list) to enter the most famous of London's public spaces, the grand imperial Trafalgar Square, with its Nelson's Column, pigeons, fountains, bronze lions, and the changing display of modern sculpture on its fourth plinth on the Northwest corner.
The square is a popular site for political demonstrations and is the main hub for London's night buses, but its main attraction for free sightseeing hunter is the National Gallery located at the north side of the square, and its wonderful collection of European paintings, from Piero della Francesca and Leonardo da Vinci to Renoir and Van Gogh.
If painting is not your thing, potter about the Trafalgar Square for a while and then make your way along the Strand, past Charing Cross station and monument (all distances to London are measured from here). Turn left by the Savoy Hotel and take Southampton Street to Covent Garden. It's very difficult to avoid spending money at the countless speciality shops and restaurants there, but it's possible, and it's the main venue for street entertainment in London, with acts competing for spaces (and payment strictly voluntary).
The greatest treasure trove of ancient artefacts and thus absultely un-missable and completely free. Reserve at least half a day and bring a packed lunch to avoid extortionate prices in the cafe, stay away from the shops and feed your eyes and your mind.
**The Kensington Museums**
Take the tube to South Kensington to visit the wonderful Natural History Museum (with Life and Earth galleries) as well as the Science Museum and V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) which is the world's greatest museum of art and design. Each of those world-class venues will comfortably fill in a half day at least!
**Grand Green Spaces**
And finally, let me point you towards some grand green spaces that London has in abundance. Central London has several major parks, including the Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens (near each other), the Green Park and St James Park (probably the nicest central London park) and Regent's Park further to the north (the Zoo is there).
My personal favourites are, however, somehow further out. The first one is Hampstead Heath, a truly glorious space in North London, a hilly place of grassy spaces, old woodland, playgrounds, running track, complete with bathing ponds and a former stately home (not free). It is one of the highest points in London and gives a fantastic view down. I suggest combining a visit with a stroll round not-to-far-away Highgate cemetery, an amazing place itself.
The second great London park is, strictly speaking, outside the city, but can be reached by the tube network. It's Richmond Park, the largest of the Royal Parks in London, and a wonderful combination of woodland, grass and cultivated gardens. Herds of red and fallow deer roam freely within much of the park - I remember turning round during one autumn walk and seeing this huge stag just standing there, few yards away, under a magnificent oak! Richmond itself, with its lovely riverside and villagey feel is well worth a visit.
*** Travel & maps ***
Firstly, get yourself a ticket. London is not a compact or semi-compact city that can be, at a stretch, walked around. Depending on the length of your stay and how spread out your internry going to be, the best option will be either a pay as you go visitors' Oyster card, which allows you to buy one-off discount tickets on all public transport or to get a 1 or 3 days off-peak travel card. It's actually worth investigating the pricing (there is a lengthy leaflet available at tube stations) and working out what will suit you best. Remember, children under 11 travel free with an adult with a travelcard, while older ones have discounts. Don't even attempt to drive in London: you have to pay a congestion charge, parking is extortionately expensive and the traffic is very, very slow.
Then, get yourself a London Transport tube map and another, more extensive map of of London connections including overground trains. These are free at tube stations.
And finally, get a decent A to Z London street atlas. This is optional, but will make a difference especially as you explore beyond the centre.
PS. This was written originally for Helium, so it's assuming a reader is a foreigner and probably an American.
PLEASE NOTE: This IS about London, but not the well trodden bits!
Having read MrChilliwillies excellent Home Town Challenge on Shrewsbury, I got to thinking about where I live, but couldnt for the life of me identify my own hometown.
Lost, no sense of direction?
No, its just that I live in one of the outer London boroughs where you dont actually feel that you can call ALL of London home, neither do I think of myself as a Londoner, yet my borough bears the name of Hounslow, which is somewhere ELSE that I dont actually live either, although its only about two miles from my house.
The London Borough of Hounslow, to give the area its full name was formed in around 1967 as a result of the dissolution of the old County Of Middlesex, and the combining of the two erstwhile Middlesex boroughs of Heston & Isleworth and Brentford & Chiswick, which in itself caused a deal of friction. To this day, just try telling someone who lives in posh Chiswick Oh, thats in Hounslow isnt it? and see how far you get with that as a chat-up line.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Yes, Id like to move ..the borough, I mean.
Situated as it is, in a western slice of the circular pie that is the GLC area, it not only has Europes busiest airport on its doorstep, but some of Europes busiest road traffic, not surprisingly taking people and freight to and from the airport! It therefore follows that its not the quietest place in the world, with aircraft landings commencing at around 4.30 a.m. (so much for the BAAs definition of night flying restrictions). However, if youre silly enough to buy a house under either of the two main flight-paths, then you ask for everything you get, although the more well-heeled people of Kew and Richmond arguably suffer more from plane noise. Away from these two noise footprints of Runways 28 Left and Right, its like any other outer urban borough, and at least you know that, this close to the runways, you wont have stray aircraft flying over you, as they are lined up and regimented by air traffic control way back over Kensington!
Its easy to forget with both the M4 motorway and A4 trunk route running through the borough like a pair of femoral arteries, that the town of Hounslow also has a history as a stage-coach stop.
The old London-Bath main road runs right through Brentford (where the Coach & Horses pub gets a mention by Dickens), through Isleworth and into Hounslow itself where it becomes the plain old High Street, and in former times would have been a first overnight stage coaching stop on the route west from London, at least in winter. To proceed any further would have meant crossing the formidable Hounslow Heath (of which some still remains) in the dark, at the mercy of the likes neer-do-wells like Dick Turpin on the days when he wasn't commuting to York to get his alibi in place! Even today, The High Street actually becomes Bath Road as it leaves the western end of the shops.
Incidentally, Heathrow originally was a row of cottages on the heath strange times we live in, eh?
In summer, your stage coach could have made it to the somewhat more picturesque village of Colnbrook (now just the other side of the airport), which to this day has three or four identifiable coaching inns, two of which are still pubs, and one, The Ostrich (a corruption of Hostelry - nothing to do with flightless birds) lays claim to being one of Britain's oldest survining pubs.
HOUNSLOW AS A BEAUTY SPOT
An unlikely title I know, but there really is a lot to admire within the borough, even if that doesnt include Hounslows own town centre, being the usual suburban concrete mess with a so-so sized version of all national shops (Littlewoolydebmarks, Argocurrixons etc!) and very little else thats unique.
For one thing, were not exactly short of parks.
Osterley Park, former London seat of The Earl Of Jersey, is now an NT property, and has to be just about the closest to London that youll see cattle grazing. The original Tudor house was converted by Robert Adam in the 18th century although the stable block - now tea rooms and a NT shop is still decidedly 'red brick' Tudor.
See also http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/places/osterley/
This is a delightful area of landscaped garden and lakes combined with more agricultural land*, marred only by its relative proximity to the M4, which emits a background drone more than a lot of noise. Having lived here 49 years, I dont notice it now! The house and gardens were the scene for the 60s movie 'The Grass Is Greener' where they represented the country pile of Cary Grant, I seem to recall.
*This is also the closest a combine-harvester gets to working near London, Ill wager.
The wheat fields that form the western side of the park were once known as Elizabeths Granary as they supplied Good Queen Bess official bakers. The estate my 1935 house is built on backs onto these fields, and the neighbouring more modern housing project is actually called Wheatlands, although the connection is no doubt lost on many of the home-owners there.
Whilst still on the subject of country piles, Syon Park, also in LB of Hounslow is the London seat of The Duke Of Northumberland. This is also an ornamental park, but you have to pay to go in. Free access is limited to the Garden Centre where you are free to part with your money in oh so many other ways. Here again, look out for the highland cattle grazing without batting an eyelid as a Seven-Forty-Seven does a flaps-down, throttles up 3000 feet directly above his horns. Syon Park has a prime example of the boroughs other beauty spot', i.e the north bank of the Thames, as it flows past Old Deer Park and Kew Gardens on the Richmond bank.
Gunnersbury Park, which is jointly administered by Hounslow and Ealing (the 'border' runs through it), was donated to London by the Rothschild family, and quite apart from a large area of footabll pitches, ornate gardens and a boating lake it also contains Gunnersbury House, their previous London residence. This has a magnificent Victorian kitchen which often serves as a huge educational resource and a large display of horse drawn carriages.
Old Isleworth, an area heavily 'remodelled' by the Luftwaffe in the Second World War (it actually had some sea-going docks worth bombing), and the river bank here is a lovely if small spot. The famous London Apprentice pub lies here with its terrace overlooking the nature conservation area of Isleworth Ait (or Eyot - thats what islets get called around her). The local All Saints church, ironically badly burned by teenage arsonists during WW2, had been rebuilt in a kind of marriage between old and new, but for one, Im not sure it works. Anyway, out back, theres a plague pit mass grave cheery thought that.
Strand-On-The-Green is the village bit of posher end Chiswick. This pretty waterfront row of eclectic cottages and modern mews houses is interspersed with pubs all charging waterside prices! It also faces the Public Records Office at Kew on the Surrey bank. The Beatles got thrown out of The City Barge here during one of their films - Help! I think it might have been. The river all through, or rather past, LB of Hounslow is tidal, and Ive spent many happy hours watching hoorays launching their honking great cruisers down the Old Isleworth slipway, only to find that the jolly old Shogun is trapped by the tide on the way back up and needs a tow truck oh the ignominy! Yet more evidence that Ken is right.
Always one of my favourites, when I feel like pretending I live in the country is to walk/cycle the Grand Union Canal towpath from Norwood Green (the posh end of Southall) to Brentford Dock, close to where the canal meets The Thames. The canal really is a haven of tranquillity, and I recently snapped a brilliant shot of a heron with a yard long eel in its beak. This 10-mile round trip can almost be done without walking/cycling on any roads, and is mainly downhill as you negotiate a staircase of locks to get to The Thames - I've introduced several people who THOUGHT they knew the area, and most have difficulty getting their bearings on account of the vastly different terrain.
Nearer central London, you have the neo-Palladian style of Chiswick House with lake and grounds and nearby Hogarths House I wonder what Hogarth would have made of all the humanity in Terminal One on a holiday Saturday!
Of course, for me, my own favourite beauty spot in the borough is the Fuller, Smith & Turner brewery hic.
Having the Fullers brewery in the locale does at least mean that we have more than a sprinkling of their pubs within reach as well as those owned by Youngs of Wandsworth - two of my favourite brews, AND they're local, oh bliss. Whilst on a similar tack, The Red Lion, a suburban pub in an Isleworth sidestreet is a CAMRA favourite with locals and 'collectors' alike.
HOUNSLOW AS A MOVIE VENUE
Yet another unlikely title, youd think, but Hounslow has featured, if only as an anonymous suburban location in many movies and TV sitcoms. The 60-70s TV series, 'Beggar My Neighbour' (Reg Varney, Peter Jones, Pat Coombs, June Whitfield) was filmed in my mums road, Oaklands Avenue in Osterley, which is also where gritty actor Bernard Lee, (the M to Sean Connery's Bond, and grandfather to Jonny Lee Miller of Plunkett and Macleane fame) actually lived for many years.
My only claim to vicarious fame these days is that I attend LB Hounslow Adult-Ed Italian classes along with Sandra Dickinson of Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy fame.
A lot of the outdoor locations spring from the fact that during the heyday of sitcoms and even masterpieces like Monthy Python, the BBC ran its outside recordings section from nearby Ealing Studios, so, if the street lamps are painted two-tone brown its Ealing, if theyre pale blue, its Hounslow easy when you know how.
More specifically, many outside shots in Bend It Like Beckham were shot here deliberately, including the frontage to Hounslow Central underground station and many shots including the A4 and in particular the road signs pointing to my house, which is how I recognised them!
Even more recently, many of the street scenes in Finding Neverland, the J. M. Barrie story starring Johnny Depp were filmed in The Butts, Brentford - a Georgian area that wishes it was in Richmond Anna Ford lives in The Butts. All the theatre shots were taken at nearby Richmond Theatre on The Green see guys, I knew that Victorian makeover would come in handy sooner or later. The rather odd name 'Butts dates back to when the local 'nob's would exercise and drill their contribution to the army in this square, its four corners being marked by four large barrels, or butts.
PLACES OF INTEREST
There really is a wierd mix of museum-like attractions in the area. One is the Kew Steam Museum, actually in Brentford by dint of the fact that its north of the river. This is an old Thames Water steam-powered pumping station with just about the largest Cornish Beam Engines Ive ever seen. Its like a cathedral to engineering where followers of the true power come to worship. Quite apart from the fixed pumping engines, it has many other steam exhibits including ships engines, a French-built front-line field railway from the First World War and is also home to open days for seemingly anyone with an antique steam locomotive or traction engine. You cant miss it; its the one with the magnificent brick tower (housing the stand-pipe that created the local water pressure) just before Kew Bridge.
The Brentford Piano Museum this place is fascinating and has been expanded to include all kinds of keyboard instruments. When I went there last, they actually demonstrated a pianola roll that had been punched by Rachmaninov himself (or was it Liberace?). It was an eerie sight to see the keys moving in exactly the way that the player had pressed them all those years before was this the original digital recording? This place is currently housed in an old church with dire maintenance problems and has been talking about moving to the Steam Museum for years check before travelling.
An obelisk moved to outside the County Court house in Brentford High Street commemorates the approximate spot where Juilus Ceasar forded the Thames against stiff opposition from the local planning commitee as they didn't want any foreigners building villas without permission on their land - as it's also near the spot where Charles 1st amassed his troops before The Battle Of Turnham Green, it also commemorates that!
Ill include Acton Works as a local place of interest even if it is some hundreds of yards inside Ealing being right opposite Acton Town (Picc line). This Underground depot has been turned into the storage wing of the London Transport Museum, Covent Garden. Here they keep exhibits that arent restored or catalogued yet, or are too big to put into the main museum. For example, they have an immaculately restored 1938 4-car tube train which still goes out on high days and holidays to satisfy the needs of enthusiasts specials and the like. Unless theyre having an open day, with trade stands and rides for the kids, dont expect much help with identifying whats there its not all labelled, although a bus, another bus etc. isnt that difficult, is it? I think you have to apply by phone to get permission to look around, although the genuine open days are fun.
Other attractions within even a cycle ride, but not technically in my home town would include Kew Gardens, just over the river from Brentford, Richmond Park, not far beyond Kew, once youve summoned the courage to travel sarf of der river (obviously, London cabbies should only attempt this whilst off-duty). Were not that far from Wembley and the newly rising stadium can actually be seen from high spots in my locality. Twickenham RFU* ground only misses being in Hounslow by a couple of hundred yards
*(Haitch-Kew to you lovers of men that play with odd shaped balls)
Oh yes, and that place called London, more specifically, Hyde Park Corner, is only 12 miles from Hounslow itself. This alone makes you wonder what the roads must have been like for Hounslow to have been the first coaching stop in winter!
MY OWN COUNTRY PILE
I actually live in what used to be a village called Heston this lies north of Hounslow town centre on the link road to Southall, home to Londons largest Asian community. It therefore follows that theres no local shortage of good Indian restaurants! Heston still has a Village Hall, quite an old pub, unfortunately done up to look even older with someone elses beams inside, a triangle with a war memorial and a Saxon church, famous for its lych gate out front. This entire microcosm has been declared a conservation area, which is fine, and I even have to apply to prune my magnolia, but sporadic in its enforcement since my neighbour seems to have gotten away with building an entire bungalow in his back garden without so much as a rapt knuckle, let alone being forced to gain retrospective planning permission. My own road is known as Old Cote Drive as an 'old cote' (cottage) stood on the corner until the 1940s - this was Heston's second from last thatched cottage but thankfully, the last has a preservation order on it. Property developers 'accidentally' let the roof burn away recently, but the council's making them put it back - tee hee.
Heston isnt famous now, except perhaps as the last M4 services before London, and location for that trial motorway bus lane, but before the Second World War, during the Munich Crisis, it was the location for an airport the one where that nice Mr Chamberlain stood on the steps of a plane, with a piece of paper saying that WW2 was cancelled. The war came alng anyway, after which Heston was declared 'too near' the nascent Heathrow and closed down - it's the westbound motorway service area and a golf course now although one of the older central buildings with control tower can occasionally be glimpsed.
I'd not previously done any research, as I'd never heard of anyone famous coming from Heston (not even young Charlton!), although if the difficulty I have getting out of Old Cote Drive is anything to go by, we ought to be a hot bed of recruitment for F1 drivers as the semmingly entire population of Southall drives to Hounslow in the morning.
I did some digging around after thinking to myself 'SURELY, SOMEONE famous must come from Heston?!', and waddya know, Jimmy Page of Led Zepellin was born here in 1944. It's also the last resting place of a couple of interesting bods, one being Sir Joseph Banks, an illustrator aboard Charles Darwin's Beagle, and the hapless Trooper White, who had the dubious distinction of being the last man in the British Army to be punished by being flogged to death!
Quite close to Heston, lies the erstwhile village of Cranford (no, not the Mrs Gaskell one, that was really Knutford, Cheshire anyway), where you will find the Church Of St Dunstan in a corner of the capacious Cranford Park right next to the M4. Nothing remarkable about that you might think, but if I said to you A pint? Have you gone raving mad? Why, thats very nearly an armful! you might realise that this is the burial spot of 'The Lad from Cheam', comedic genius, Tony Hancock. I really must go over there some day myself!
Like a lot of outer London locations, public transport access to central London is excellent if crowded (and fault prone) during the rush hour. The Piccadilly Line serves three Hounslow stations, Osterley and Boston Manor before leaving the borough, then briefly flirting with Chiswick (outside rush hours only) before deserting us for Ealing and Hammersmith permanently.
Also, the main line in the form of South West Trains covers Hounslow, Isleworth, Syon Lane, Brentford, Kew Bridge and Chiswick. This is a more pleasant way to travel, particularly in summer, although the Hounslow line into Waterloo often only runs every 30 minutes, stopping at all stations, unlike neighbouring Richmond, which enjoys frequent and limited-stop trains.
Travelling north-south in these outer reaches is something else though, and mainly the domain of bus travel, which can swing from a breeze-through to horrendously Ill get out and walk, its faster. However, an all-London bus pass is only £2.50 for the whole day, which is not bad if youve GOT all day to get there!
EATING OUT, GOING OUT
Ah yes, my favourite subject. I dont limit myself to the immediate borough here, as I tend to travel around outside the rush hour, so anywhere within say 8 miles is fair game. In that circle, weve Indian (obviously), Chinese, Thai, Greek, Moroccan, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Lebanese, and any number of bistro-like eateries serving generally Mediterranean dishes. Ironically, Id be hard put to it to name a British gaff, except perhaps for those with the poncy menus in French for things that are quite mundane. Im just waiting for the Purée de Petits Pois avec Tripes Aux Échalottes.
Right then, who wanted ttripe n onions wi mushy peas?
The best part is, with all this competition, they mostly have to be good or go under.
As Ive mentioned before, Richmond Theatre is close by, and frequently puts on shows and plays prior to their West End debut. Likewise, theres The Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith and whilst were there, The Labatts Apollo, a famous rock venue, although, ah kin remember it when it were just tbloody Odeon witfront row costin 1 n 9.
For somewhere I couldnt identify as home at the beginning, Ive surprised myself perhaps Ill give it another ten years to see if it grows on me! That should tie in with the missus retiring.
You do begin to realise however, that very nature of a suburb tends to mean that you can identify where a lot of history USED to be before they built over it
It might be a bit worn round the edges, litter-strewn (so is Amsterdam so I feel a bit better about that now) and overly busy, but I cant imagine burying myself in the heart of the country, although next to Tony Hancock would be nice!
This is my hometown, whats yours?
This started as a response to proxam's challenge, but it's taken me so long, it's probably too late to be part of that. Ah well, here's the opinion. Oh, it's long. Apologies in advance if you like opinions short and to the point. Writing about one's home town presents a problem if you live in London. The place is just so damn big, where do I start? Tourist attractions? Museums? Football clubs? There are too many, for goodness sake. I've been mulling this over for months, and still don't know how to describe London. In a nutshell, everyone's always in an almighty hurry, people don't look each other in the eye, and apparently the streets are paved with gold. But I suppose I need to say more than that. Having no real idea of how to approach a subject so vast while sticking to a reasonable word limit, I've decided to completely dispense with anything that could even remotely be described as useful. I've instead decided to tell you about the journey I typically make into the centre of town. I live north east, in Dalston. Not the most salubrious part of London, but a nice middle ground between pricy Stoke Newington and grim Hackney. Dalston was bombed during the first ever air-raid on London, in 1915. I live just off Kingsland Road, a busy main road that runs from the eastern edge of the City up to Stoke Newington and beyond. It runs almost exactly north along the route of one of the old Roman roads, Ermine Street, which I believe eventually went as far as York. If you go up towards Stoke Newington, you'll find Abney Park, one of London's huge Victorian cemeteries. If you head down the road, towards the city, which is the direction I'm going, you'll pass a typically grim shopping mall. You'll also pass Dalston Kingsland Station, part of the appalling Silverlink North London line, which manages to be even more soul-destroying than the Underground. Just before the mall is
Ridley Road, home to a busy street market, where in the past Oswald Mosley preached his anti-immigration rhetoric (Hackney and Dalston are extremely multi-cultural). As you look down towards London, the skyline is dominated by the rather silly-looking new skyscraper, 'The Gherkin'. There are no Tube stations on Kingsland Road. The nearest is Highbury & Islington, but that's a good 20 minutes walk away. So to get into town I need a bus. Buses are better anyway. Less cramped, less stressful, cheaper, and you get to see things. I get the number 242 from Dalston Junction (where Dalston Lane and Ball's Pond Road meet Kingsland). It takes me all the way to Tottenham Court Road for only £1. You can't say fairer than that. There's not a lot to see on Kingsland Road, apart from the Geffrye Museum, which I keep meaning to go to. At the bottom there's a road junction, and then you're on Shoreditch High St. At the junction is an 18th century church, St Leonard Shoreditch. I assume it's the 'Shoreditch' mentioned in the 'Oranges and Lemons' nursery rhyme. No idea who St Leonard was. Also at the junction is Brown's, a lap-dancing club which I've never been to. (If you want strippers, go down Hackney Road, which is off this junction. There you'll find a pub called The Old Axe. It's a traditional, grotty stripper pub, where a girl in a bikini will come round with a pint glass into which everyone puts a pound coin. She then takes her bikini off and gyrates to some pop music. This is repeated every few minutes all night. I should stress that I only went there once, on a friend's stag night. The friend in question is the occasional dooyoo member called fromage, so blame him, alright?) To the left is Old Street. Quite a way up there is St Luke's, a ruined church with a steeple by Hawksmoor, and if you find City Road you'll see Bunhill Fields graveyard, where Bunyan, Defoe and Wil
liam Blake are all buried. I love this part of London. A lot of it was destroyed in the Blitz, and bits are constantly being knocked down and rebuilt, so you have an odd mix of ultra modern buildings and things that look like they haven't changed since Victorian times. Shoreditch High St turns into Bishopsgate, named after one of the gates in the original city wall (this is generally true of any street with 'gate' in the name around the City - Ludgate, Moorgate, Cripplegate etc). From the bus, looking down Brushfield St, you can see the old Spitalfields Market and Hawksmoor's strange-looking Christ Church, which must have been surprised to find itself appearing alongside Johnny Depp in the dreadful Jack the Ripper movie From Hell. Just across the road from the church is the Ten Bells pub, where the Ripper's victims used to look for customers. I haven't been there for a few years, but it's preserved its Victorian interior, is very small and has lots of tacky Ripper souvenirs for sale. Round the corner on Hanbury St the second Ripper victim was found (the site now covered by a warehouse), and a nearby multi-storey car park covers what was once Miller's Court, where the last victim was killed. If you go down there of an evening you'll likely see a Ripper tour or two. Also nearby is Brick Lane, a great place to go for a curry. (Spitalfields has always been a centre of immigration in London; Huguenots in the 18th century, Eastern European Jews in the late 19th, and now Bangladeshis.) Going down Bishopsgate you pass Houndsditch, one of the best-named roads in London, and the Natwest Tower, which was London's tallest building until Canary Wharf came along. Also Liverpool St Station, the only bit of the Monopoly board this bus passes until it reaches its destination. Just before the bus turns down Threadneedle Street, you can see the top of the Monument, erected by Wren to commemorate the Great Fire and slander the C
atholics. From here the bus pretty much follows the route of the Underground Central Line, going past all of its stations until it terminates. Threadneedle Street, which is notable for the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange, is the most annoying part of the journey: the road is too narrow, often causing frustrating delays. Outside the Royal Exchange is a large statue of Wellington on horseback, staring with patronising benevolence at the lunchbreaking workers. Going into town you don't get to see his face from the bus, but you do get a great view of the horse's arse. We're well into the City now, the original Roman London before it started to spread and consume the outlying villages. The City's boundaries are marked by little silver statues of griffins. The street names are great around here, being descriptive of the trades that used to be based on them. Ironmonger Lane, for instance, or Milk Street, or Poultry. Old Jewry was the road Jews lived on, at least until they were expelled from England en masse in the thirteenth century. There was even a street of prostitutes, although I can't tell you what that was called. Family website and all that. There's not a lot to see in the City, unless you're particularly interested in banks, of which there are dozens. Down Cheapside next, a big road that used to be used for royal processions in medieval times (apparently the streets would flow with wine on special occasions, which sounds quite unhygienic). Cheapside was also a site for public punishments, including beheadings, and various revolting peasants (Wat Tyler, Jack Cade) lynched their enemies here in a neatly symbolic inversion of law and order. The church of St Mary-le-Bow, rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire, is on this street; apparently you can only be called a true cockney if you were born within earshot of its bells. (This presumably means there aren't any real cockneys left, as no one lives in the City these
days, and I think the bells were destroyed in the Blitz anyway.) At the bottom of Cheapside is St Paul's, probably the most famous London landmark after Big Ben, a huge, magnificent cathedral designed by Wren as the centrepiece of London's post-fire regeneration. It's currently covered in scaffolding on one side, but still looks very impressive. Shockingly, it costs £10 to go in and have a look around, something that would probably have annoyed Jesus immensely. It certainly annoys me. Newgate Street follows Cheapside, another street named after a gate. From there, passing Old Bailey on the left, the bus progresses along Holborn Viaduct, a street built by the Victorians to clear a dangerous slum (or 'rookery'). The Victorians' answer to crime basically seems to have involved building roads through rougher areas in the belief that it was inferior housing that turned people to crime rather than poverty. The Viaduct crosses Farringdon Street via a bridge. The bridge has some peculiar statues - lions with ridiculously small wings and some odd looking women who are doubtless symbolic of something. Near Farringdon St are Smithfield meat market, the only big London market that's survived in the City itself, and the Barbican Centre. After the Viaduct we come to Holborn (pronounced hoe-bun, not holl-born). An equestrian statue of Prince Albert jauntily doffing his hat to passing motorists is the highlight here. Holborn turns into High Holborn, and we're almost there. The bus progresses up the dreary New Oxford Street, another Victorian slum clearance project. This is proper West End grimness now, with grotty shops that presumably couldn't afford to be on Oxford Street proper (although there is an umbrella shop here that claims to sell sword sticks). The bus terminates just before Centrepoint, an ugly 60s skyscraper. When you're at Tottenham Court Road, London is your oyster. You can head down Charing Cross R
oad, which leads to Chinatown or Leicester Square, and eventually to Trafalgar Square and its art galleries. From there it's a short hop to the Embankment, where you can see Cleopatra's Needle, or cross the river to the London Eye or the South Bank Centre. You could then head east to Tate Modern or Shakespeare's Globe. Or from Tottenham Court Rd you could head into Soho, where you'll find aggressive beggars, overpriced coffee and porn. If you're feeling particularly foolish you could go up Oxford St, with it's nasty shops and slooooow tourists, although if you get to the end you'll find Hyde Park, which is nice. Or you could go up Tottenham Court Rd itself where you can buy any amount of cheap electronic equipment. Or down into Covent Garden. Or head back into Bloomsbury for the British Museum. Heck, you can go anywhere. Piccadilly is pretty close, so are Regent's Park and the zoo. Baker Street is an easy enough walk. I've even trudged all the way to Knightsbridge and Notting Hill from here, although that might be pushing it a bit. Anyway, that's enough. I really don't know how useful a description of a bus journey from Dalston to the West End is, and I certainly don't feel like I kept within a sensible word limit, but never mind. This review is part of the HOMETOWN challenge where members are asked to write about any aspect of their home town - or a town they'd like/not like to be their home town. You can find all the participants by going to: http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/internet/internet_sites/dooyoo_co_uk_in_general/_r eview/426988/
The allure and free availability of foreign travel these days has tended to cloud the attractions of destinations closer to home. Turning our eyes away from the distant west for once we recently spent a delightful week in London on a City break holiday. Even though it was April, the weather was cold and windy but dry and we filled our time with a variety of activities. I had no problem finding accommodation in the heart of the city (we booked an apartment two minutes away from Trafalgar Square; two minutes walk from Embankment Station with a view of the London Eye from the front room!). We also braved the vagaries of rail travel and found quite exceptional value travelling Weekend First from the North East. Despite planning, reading guide books and asking friends and travel agents it is often a problem navigating the transport system and choosing from the list of sights to see and things to do - especially in an area the size of Greater London. I had some experience of a City Pass on a visit to Amsterdam last year and my investigations on the internet found a similar scheme - "The London Pass". The scheme is run by the Leisure Pass Group and ordering can be done from their website (http://www.londonpass.com). It is available in 1-, 2-, 3- and 6-day versions - with or without transport - and there is a cheaper rate for children. The pack consists of a Guide Book (three languages - English French and German), a Smart Card and a transport ticket. Together this provides travel on the City's transport system (buses, all six regions of the Underground and certain of the ordinary rail network), admission to a wide range of attractions and vouchers giving discounts at other sites and restaurants. The Smart Card is the central part of the package, initialised when you present it at your first port of call and then gaining you free admission thereafter. The 2- and 3- day travel tickets are valid for the appropriate number of consec
utive days. The 6- day pass comes with a seven-day travel ticket. Usefully it can be used straight from your point of entry including Heathrow. The one day travel ticket is valid from 9am on the day of issue. The other varieties are valid for the full 24 hours. ADMISSION FREE The Guide Book contains descriptions of all the places on offer and these are divided up into sections (Places of Interest, Historic Buildings, Museums, Galleries). Within each section the items are subdivided by district. Each entry has a short description of the attraction with a guide map and travelling instructions. At the time of our visit the available edition covered 2002/2003 - maybe not a concern in itself but many of the 'extra special' features did relate to the Queen's Jubilee Year celebrations. Consequently many had already passed. A good example of this was the offer of free tickets to the tour of Buckingham Palace between August 5th and September 29th 2002 to 2-, 3- and 6-day pass holders. There is no evidence that the offer will be available again in 2003. Similarly there was a display of the Royal Wedding Dresses at Kensington Palace which the booklet advertises to April 1st 2003. We were fortunate that the facility had been extended for a further month. The list of places of interest include the London Aquarium, HMS Belfast, Wimbledon Tennis Museum and Kew Gardens. There are a further nine venues in this section. The historic buildings include the Tower of London, Hampton Court, Windsor Castle, The Royal Mews and St Paul's Cathedral (plus thirteen others). The British, The Guards, The Jewish and London's Transport (and ten more) make up the Museum list. There are six galleries including the Bankside and the National. It is perhaps noteworthy some of the sites that are NOT included in the package. These include the Victoria and Albert Museum, Westminster Abbey, The London Eye. MORE TO SEE AND DO
There is a fifty minute courtesy narrated catamaran tour from the South Bank pier along the river to Tower Bridge and back. There is an alternative cruise on a narrow boat along Regent's Canal from Little Venice to Camden Lock. There are also a number of escorted walking tours in the heart of London. Many of the sites also offer free cakes with coffee, entry into additional exhibition, free loan of tape guides or discounts in the souvenir store. 10% OFF The London Pass offers a discount on certain full price theatre tickets (bought on the day of the show). The current range includes "Les Miserables", "My Fair Lady" and "Phantom of the Opera". Orange offers a free five day mobile telephone rental. There is free afternoon admission to the Curzon cinemas (Mayfair and Soho) and Richmond Film House. Sessions are available at a bowl, skating rink, go-kart track or Namco Station interactive entertainment complex. Discounts are available on tickets for the river bus, Catamaran Thames dinner cruises and bicycle and roller blade hire. Hamley's toy shop offer a souvenir teddy bear with purchases of £20 or more. Discounts on food are also offered at Planet Hollywood, Bagelmania and The Sea Shell fish and chip restaurant. VALUE FOR MONEY Our six day Pass cost us £104 each. It has to be said that many of the places in the guide (museums and galleries) have free admission anyway but there are supplementary areas which also become free to pass holders. Many accept the Pass instead of a ticket at the main gate which obviates the need to join long queues. We kept a close eye on the admission prices of the places that we visited (these ranged from £6.50 to £12). Overall we probably did not make much of a profit over the whole week but we were rapidly aware of the simplicity and saving of having a multi-day travel pass (a singl
e zone journey on the Underground is about £1.80; a cheap day return to Hampton Court is £4.90). The Guide Book promises a total saving of about £350 (unrealistic of course as you would not be able to visit everything in the time available) but it also introduced us to places that we might never otherwise have discovered and we saw several places that we would have missed. There was also a feeling that we could 'dip in and out' - not lingering at places of lesser interest just because we had paid at the door. As I said in the body of the review, the card and booklet is current for a long period of time (two years). The web site is still advertising the same range of attractions (although the Queen's Jubilee features have been removed) and the year date is not mentioned. Presumably the 2004/5 series will be issued very soon. [POSTSCRIPT: The Leisure Pass Group also offer similar packages to New York, Bath and York]
Do you know your capital well? Do you know it at all? I know Berlin, but not as well as I know London, this being the city I've visited most often. How often? I've wrecked my brain and have remembered thirteen visits, from two days to three months. I've been there on my own, with a friend, with my husband and six or seven times (I really can't remember as I don't go there regularly) with a group of students.
Over the years I've perfected the programme of the excursions with my students and now it's more or less the same with only slight variations whenever I go; I'd like to take you with me, maybe you get some inspiration for a visit to London alone or with a group of people or, in case you already know everything, you may find it interesting to learn what foreigners find worthwhile when visiting. Perforce this will be one of my longer ops, feel free to skim!
The motto of my programme is 'variatio delectat' as the Romans used to say, 'variety pleases' in English, I want to show my students as many different facets of the city as possible in such a short time. This doesn't mean that we rush from sight to sight, there's more free time than programme as you'll see. The visit I'm describing here started on 28th June and ended on 4th July 2003.
We bought a travelcard (you need a photo for it) for one week for zone 1+2 (19.60 GBP for adults, 8 GBP for children) at the tube station in Heathrow airport, a one hour ride took us to Paddington from where we reached our low budget hotel situated in a tranquil street two minutes away from the station. We took our suitcases to our respective rooms and met in the hall ready to conquer the city.
It was 2 pm when we set off. Having read an opinion by an English country lad describing the horrors of travelling by tube I know that one doesn't have to be a foreigner to find it overwhelming at fi
rst contact. We're also 'land eggs' as we say in German coming from a town with 50 000 inhabitants and the surrounding villages, the students may pretend to be cool, but on their first day in London they're not unhappy to be guided. I always appoint a student as 'tube guide', he or she has to find out how we travel best from A to B, it saves the teachers time and they have someone to blame if the group finds itself on the wrong tube! ;-)
We got off at Westminster and went round the Houses of Parliament into the gardens and looked down at the Thames. Unfortunately the water was flowing into the 'right' direction, so when I asked my standard question, "Where's the North Sea in your opinion?" the answer had to be correct. It's nice to ask this question when the water is coming in and then explain them (we live far away from the sea in the south west of Germany) what ebb and flood mean. I had distributed information to my students on the sights we would visit already at home and whenever we were somewhere interesting we clustered round a students delivering a short speech. Up to now all students have obeyed and said some more or less intelligent sentences.
Unfortunately Westminster Abbey is more often closed than open, it's always closed on Saturday afternoon so we could only admire it from the outside. I advised the students to go inside in their free time, but none of them did so. From there we went to Buckingham Palace crossing Green Park, a lively sight on a sunny weekend day. Few joggers, in Germany there would be many more. Many dustbins, always two on either side of the path, hardly any in the rest of the city, however! Pall Mall was full of British and Russian flags (Putin had been in London a week (!) before), a colourful and photogenic sight.
For the evening I had booked a walk with email@example.com, the oldest and probably the best organisation in
the field of walks. Get to know the city on foot, an intelligent concept, be guided by people who know the tour well, who have anecdotes ready and who can deliver what they have to say in a pleasing manner (group rate 75 GBP for approximately 1 1/2 hours, for more than 20 students it's 3,50 GBP each). I've always wanted to show my students a sunny and a not so sunny side of London, so six years ago, when I discovered London Walks, I had decided on Hampstead on the first evening and on the East End on the second day, very successful walks both, but because *I* had been on these walks already twice I decided on Kensington and on the Ghosts of the Old City Walk this time.
Although we had the best possible guide (Tom Hooper), I wouldn't do the walk through Kensington again, it's just not as attractive as Hampstead, I was rather disappointed. The students couldn't compare and followed the guide and his stories dutifully impressed. One boy decided on that first evening that the trip to London was worth his money because he saw a McLaren racing car cruising through the streets of Kensington, a model of which only a handful of specimen exist. The stories surrounding Princess Diana to which we listened sitting on the grass in front of 'her' palace touch us Germans only superficially, but must be the highlight for British groups.
Sunday morning saw us in a nunnery, the Tyborn Convent, 8 Hyde Park Place, Bayswater Rd. W2. I had read about the place in the book Secret London by Andrew Duncan some years ago and written to the prioress asking her if we could visit (How to address a prioress? I chose 'Dear Madam' which was accepted, she answered at once, this year via email!). I've been there three times already and will include it again if there's a next time, what better chance for 18-year-old students to get to know an alternative life-style?
The 25 Tyborn nuns belong to an enclosed
Benedictine order which means that they never leave the convent, not even to visit relatives. They spend their time in study and prayer, the site is near the former gallows of Marble Arch and they pray for the souls of the Catholic martyrs executed there during the reign of Henry VIII. Every day they relax for one hour playing games or taking exercise in the convent garden, when indoors it's snooker and scrabbles for them.
From there into the outside world, to Speakers Corner just across the street. I was positively surprised to notice that there were not only religious fanatics this year, but 'normal' citizens blabbing away on every possible subject under the sun interrupted by hagglers as it should be. What a homey feeling it gave me to see two speakers again I've seen every single time I've been to London and to Speakers Corner!
Camden Street Market next! My colleague and I took our students there, told them not to just stay near the station, but to walk on because the more interesting things are beyond the bridge across the canal, but then we 'got lost'. We went our separate ways, not only because it's impossible to stay together there, but also because we had our individual plans for our spare time. We forgot to tell our students that on Sundays one can only get out at Camden Town tube station, but not get in, one must use the station before or after when going back to the centre, but they were intelligent enough to find that out on their own.
I visited all the big museums ages ago and I could very well see them all again, but I won't do so before I haven't been to all the smaller museums I'm interested in and I haven't seen yet. I chose the Wallace Collection for my Sunday afternoon.
The Wallace Collection
Nearest Underground Stations: Bond Street, Baker Street and Oxford Circus
Open daily from 10.00am until
5.00pm (Sundays 12.00pm until 5.00pm)
If you're lucky (I was) you can even follow a free guided tour and get some of the many artefacts explained. The Wallace Collection is both a national museum and the finest private collection of art ever assembled by one family. It has been open for the public since 1900, among its treasures are one of the best collections of French 18th-century pictures, porcelain and furniture in the world, a remarkable array of 17th-century paintings and a superb armoury.
At 7.30 pm the teachers and the students met at St. Paul's tube station for the walk 'The Ghosts of the Old City', Lesley, an Irish actress, guided us. The students, boys and girls alike, took to her at once, later they told me that this walk was the best and two even said that it was the highlight of the whole week. I remember the walk not only because we enlarged our vocab on ghosts and gallows considerably and became (verbal) experts in the fields of beheading, quartering and disemboweling, but also because an ickle dooyooer accompanied us! It was my first and hopefully not last RL (real life) encounter with a virtual character, when we were in the pub to which Lesley had guided us at the end of the walk, we discovered that we got along with each other pleasantly, we chatted until last orders!
The Globe Theatre and the Shakespeare Exhibition therein (students - 6.00 GBP) was the destination of the following morning. I had pondered on this item quite a long time, two years ago I didn't take my students to the exhibition, but went to see King Lear in the evening with them, but I didn't find this year's plays, Richard II and Richard III, appealing and decided against them. I couldn't prepare the plays in class in Germany and I'm sure the students wouldn't have been able to understand them.
When we told our students something about Tate Modern, we heard comments
like "I'm not interested in art" as was to be expected, such comments come only and always from students who've never been to a museum. We told/ordered them to at least walk through one floor, alone or in groups, anyway not with us teachers, no money would be spent in vain as the admittance is free, and just look. Surprisingly for them, not surprisingly for us, some of them (one can never please everyone) were quite impressed.
After that the students could do what they wanted. They asked us about Madame Tussauds, was it worth the money (+ Planetarium 13 GBP for students)? My colleague and I told them that there are lots of wax celebrities which mean nothing to foreigners, that the only part of the exhibition which can be understood by everyone is the Chamber of Horrors. Then my colleague said, "If you're interested in horror stuff, you can also go to the London Dungeon which is also on the South Bank, i.e., not far away, it's cheaper and there are fewer visitors." I remembered former students telling me that it was too childish and insulted their intelligence, well, to cut a long story short, in the end we talked them into going to the Imperial War Museum, admittance free and certainly not childish. The next day they told us that the advice had been good.
I stayed in the Tate Modern for more than three hours, on my own and undisturbed, what a wonderful place! In the evening I saw the play 'The Woman In Black' at the Fortune Theatre, Russell St, WC 2, a ghost story with two actors and a ghost, fitting into what we'd already seen and heard of London. The students discovered the 'Happy Hour' at the Pubbar Oxygen, 17 - 18 Irving Street, Leicester Square, which they liked so much that they returned there every night. Once they happened to see from there or nearby (dunno) the stars of the film 'Charlie's Angels' whose European release was celebrated, this made the trip worthw
hile for some of our girls.
Do you know how much it costs to see the Tower? 11.30 GBP for adults/ 8.50 for students/ 7.50 for children! We only looked at it from the outside the next morning, listened to the student who was the expert of the day and then walked on to the Tower Bridge where I made my students stand with one foot on either side of the bridge. I'd read in a dooyooer's op that she used to do this as a child and found the quivering of the bridge quite exciting. Although heavy lorries were passing, we didn't feel much, maybe we were too heavy? After a while a British teacher with a class from an elementary school shooed us away, he wanted them to spit through the gap. I asked him if that meant good luck, he said, "No idea, I've just made it up".
After a detour to Katherine's Wharf and an envious look at he yachts there we entered the Dockland's Railway and discovered the most modern part of London, it's a surreal feeling to sit in the (aboveground) train and glide through a city of steel and glass. We got off at Canary Wharf (pity that visitors aren't allowed to go up to the top) on our way back from Greenwich where we visited the Observatory, also admission free now, praised be the decision to let the visitors in without money! (It was made after the number of visitors had dropped by half, amazing that the prices weren't cut, but abolished completely).
What did I plan for the afternoon? The Hindu Mandir in Neasden, the biggest Hindu temple outside India, made of white marble and limestone, a real gem. Neasden is outside zone 2 and one has to buy an extension ticket for 1 GBP to get there. If you're interested, I can invite you to read my op 'The Gods Live In Suburbia'. The students were very impressed indeed and two decided to make it No 1 on the list of what they liked best in London.
Another theatrical performance for the teachers in the ev
ening, the word 'play' can't be used for 'Stomp' at the Vaudeville on the Strand (I'm thinking of writing an op on it), Happy Hour and Disco for the Young Ones.
Are you tired? I was, but I decided not to give way to my tiredness during my days in London and fill myself up to the brim with what the city had on offer for me.
On the following morning my colleague took the group to St Paul's while I went to King's Cross to buy the tickets for our day trip to Cambridge on our last but one day. I had my special 'event' when Euston Station where I had to change on my way back was evacuated because some joker had left a piece of luggage on a platform. My colleague and two students had the same experience on the last day when shopping in H & M, we learnt that evacuating a building is something Londoners have learnt to do quite well, because it happens so often!
We met at Covent Garden Tube Station at 11.30 from where our guard Tom guided us on the walk 'Behind Closed Doors', my ickle dooyoo friend had come again giving me the impression that she had enjoyed our first meet as much as I had. You've already read so much here (hopefully) that I won't bore you with my account on this walk, you can read hers!
You haven't read yet that we were in the British Museum, can one leave London without going there? No, one can't, but my colleague and I didn't want to go there another time, so we told our students to go without us and warned them not to cheat on us, we'd find them out! I ordered them to find out which colour the Rosetta Stone has and to count the mummies [not that I have the foggiest idea how many there are ;-)], but our students are so sweet, they came back with the right answer to question one (the colour of asphalt) and the promise to show me the photos they took of each other beside the mummies. (Which teacher doesn't dream of students lik
They were completely knocked out after that and went back to the hotel to sleep! Sweet they may be, but weak, 'soft eggs' as we say in German, weaklings! Will they be able to work for my old age pension one day? Will they be able to defend my country against enemies if need be? The answer is, yes, of course, they are still young and the discos close too late.
I spent the whole afternoon at Somerset House between the Strand and the Embankment wandering through the different exhibitions, I don't know what my colleague did, in the evening we met and saw 'The Madness Of George Dubya', a politically incorrect satire on which I wrote my last op. We may be older than our students, but we're certainly tougher!
On our last morning (we had to leave for Heathrow at 3 pm) I took the group to Fortnum & Mason, the highclass food store for the well-off. We did *not* buy a real scorpion in a bottle of vodka or crisp worms to be strewn over soup, but we found some special half price offers like Assam tea or pickled walnuts to take home as souvenirs. Later I went to the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts on Piccadilly where I could easily have spent several thousand pounds (if I had them, heehee) and the students did *what*? Of course, they went shopping, for me the most boring activity, for some the only reason to go to London.
We had started on Saturday afternoon, when we forget Cambridge which is a completely different story and add the morning of the last day, Friday, we had exactly five days in London. I was glad to arrive back home on Friday night so that I had Saturday and Sunday to recover before school started again; I spent the two days in a kind of trance, either sleeping or dozing. I've recovered meanwhile and I've already decided to do everything I can to get the right classes in 2004 so that I can go to London again in 2005!
Had to go to London for a meeting on Monday afternoon. I did not want to drive there and back in the one day and British rail was out of the question (see previous review). I decided to Drive down Sunday and stay over night in a Formule 1 Hotel in Barking. This would give me the opportunity of seeing some of the sights. I have not been to London for many a year but at one point in my life I spent many happy weekends there. The drive down was fine and I arrived booked in to Formule 1 and took the car into the city. After a few hours of site seeing I returned to the hotel and had a very good sleep awaking fresh on Monday morning. Monday was spent travelling by the tube. Walking around the city once again and eating. Once my meeting was over there was time for a bit more walking around, then back to the car and the drive home. Hopefully this gives an insight into the trip and servers as an introduction to my Review of a little over 24 hours in the Big City. The Good Formule 1 is well worth the money as you get exactly what you pay for the bare necessities. They always remind me of a collection of containers stood at the dock side. Once inside they remind me of portacabins. Getting inside is novel (there is no staff except for a few hours each day. If you pre book Telephone, internet you are given a booking code and if you pay by credit or debit card you have to take it with you. Otherwise there is a machine in the entrance where you make bookings. Once your card is placed in the slot you are asked for your booking code. This it proof that you are who you say you are. You are then presented with a receipt that contains the assess code and room number (you can have multiple receipts). You them enter the code into the gadget on the door and you are in. there is an identical keypad gadget on all the room doors. The rooms are pleasant there is a double bed with a single bed above it, a sink, a chair and a TV. All that
you would need for the night. The toilet and showers are just down the hall. These are all plastic not unlike what you will find in a modern caravan. They self clean every time they are used. I don?t know how this works but there always seemed to be clean and ready for use. There is a continental eat-all-you-can breakfast this costs extra. That is about all there is to a Formule 1 Hotels. If you want one or two nights cheep basic accommodation they are ideal they are a European company and have Hotels through ought Europe. London Underground I remember the dirty, dank, smelly, intimidating underground of years ago. Forget it; I was pleasantly surprised at the massive improvement. Barking is an on ground station, if you understand what I mean; it is a hive of activity very well managed by a bank of ticket machines. For those not quite sure of things there is friendly and helpful staff on hand. Once on the tube most of them looked relatively new and in good order we were soon underground with nothing to look at but the people around you. All the stations I visited were well looked after had pleasant staff and very little of the bad things of the passed in evidence. There are signs everywhere warning against begging or busking and there was security in evidence be it CCTV or patrolling staff. They can still be confusing though, I had to change from one line to another at one point and the amount of walking along a seemingly endless warren of passages was a bit much, still I should have planned my rout better. In all congratulations to London Underground for the vast improvement there has been. Tradition: I am by no means a traditionalist but, I loved being able to wander around so much history. Parliament square with its banners against war, the Red Busses, the Black Taxies, Trafalgar, Piccadilly, The mall, The Plaice. It was wonderful to see. Hear and just be in the places that you see all the time on the News. The crowds flocked around t
he Plaice just to watch the change of the guard is amazing why do they do it? The answer is simple nowhere else is it done so well. Policing there may be a war on and a heightened state of security but there were police all over the place. This was a good thing as it was reassuring and also they were able to point me in the right direction when I went off track. There was also much evidence that tourists in general found there presence helpful. The Bad There are a few things that I did not like about London. Some of the people are not nice. Yes I know you get these people everywhere but they stood out. With the number of foreign tourists in evidence this creates a bad impression. Tube stations are by far the worst places. I know that all these people stood around when I have to get to work can be frustrating. Common decency demands that instead of barging through like an Exoset Missile one should use the term Excuse me. One chap simply shouted ?MOVE? as he rushed passed leaving people spinning in his wake. The traffic is frightening; it comes from all directions at speed. Be it a Bus, Car, Taxi, Motor Bike or Push Bike they stop for now one and take no prisoners. The traffic calming measures recently introduced can not have had an effect. If they have then it must have been horrendous before. Street cleaning although there were street cleaners in evidence some places were a disgrace, especially sub ways. These are not pleasant places at the best of times. With pieces of cardboard, news papers, bits of blankets strewn about. Obvious refuges of homeless people moved on by whomever. Either that or there are some very big rats in London. There has been a move to make these places safer by placing CCTV in them and painting murals on the walls. However paint spray cans make a mess of both in but a split second. Generally though I did think the place could do with a spring clean. Starbuck
s I hav e hared so much about Sterbucks that I just had to give it a try. I am glad I did as in the future I will know to avoid it like the plague. They are all over London on almost every street corner. Very nice inside however if you go in for coffee you may be disappointed. I ordered a Latté with extra coffee. What I received was a paper cup; yes a paper cup full of warm milk with just the slightest hint of flavour that could have been coffee. People rave about this place, the conclusion being that I am an alien just passing through on my way to an interstellar conference there I have inadvertently given away my true reason for going to London. The Disgusting Westminster Abby: one of the wonders of London. Is soaked in history, my history. It is a marvellous building to look at. It contains some of the things that make or made Great Britain Great. In Poets' Corner lie the remains of some of the world?s greatest poets Dryden, Tennyson, Robert Browning the writers Dr. Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy. The shrines of most of the English Kings and Queens and that of St. Edward the Confessor, The tombs of Queen Elizabeth I her half-sister Mary I and Mary Queen of Scots, her son James I. Queen Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII by Catherine of Aragon. Its all there the history of the British people Yet why is this entered under the heading ?Discussing?? Well it is well and truly one of the most discussing things that I came across in London. This Abby, this house of God, this treasury of English history is open for all to see. The problem that I have with it is the fact that there is an entrance fee. Yes they charge you to get in to see all the aforementioned treasures. That to me is not only sacrilegious but a charge on my heritage. Overall I did enjoy my 24+ hours in London. I did not get to see lots of things that I would have liked. So I must get around
making anoth er trip soon. I will use Formule 1 again and I will use the underground. Next time I will plan ahead and get better organised and hopefully have more time to spend on things and places instead of a quick whistle stop tour. I will not be going to Starbucks or Westminster Abby. As usual though it is good to get home and slip between your own sheets.
I love London. It is my favourite place in the UK. Why? Well, it is an exciting place to get away from it all. Now, I love breaks and holidays. I love just getting away. London is thoroughly reccomended to anyone wanting to escape on a Leisure break for any duration. There are more than enough hotels although I look and stay at well known brands like Holiday-Inn, Thistle, MoatHouse, Marriott, Hilton, TravelInn, Travelodge, Innkeepers Lodge- you get the picture. I haven't stayed at all these brands but a few and I always look for them aswell as other brands I haven't mentioned. The biggest hotelier in London is Thistle Hotels which are 4 star luxury hotels. They have them covered with 24 London Hotels looking in my Thistle brochure. I also like to stay on the borders sometimes like in Croydon or beckenham and maybe even Heathrow. Some private ones though, you may have to watch. Dont forget Thistle has other ones apart from London! Wining and Dining is easy in London with High Street brands like Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonalds, Harry Ramsdons and all the high street brands. They have privately owned ones which some can be nice, some might not be. Transport is absolutely great. You may choose to go by Bus which are red usually. Or you may chhose the London Underground which maybe better than buses because of no traffic but I hate the low down ones like the Bakerloo line. Gives me the shivers. There are taxis and in some areas overground train services. People, like always varies. i like most London people as they are down to earth usually. Of course, as it is a big City, you get a wide range of people so some maybe not nice but I find most people are. Attraction wise, there are loads of things to do. I absolutely love The Tower of London because of it's fascinating attractions. This is next to Tower Bridge on the River Thames. Also on the River Thames is The London Eye. This is good although when you first go up you
may feel sick. I felt better when we were higher up than when we were escalating- weird! There are loads and loads and loads more to do. Hundreds. Oh, i also like The Victoria and Albert Museum, The British Museum and many more. Overall, this is a truly Spectacular City. London is steeped in History and combines Old Elegance and Museums with Contemporary style too. So if you like oldy worldy things or museums then come or if you like more contemporary, modern style things then come. I like modern style but am fascinated by the museums. Happy travelling! PS I always go there 1-2 times a year and I love it!