London, England highlights
Covent Garden has all sorts of street musicians and jugglers who pander especially to kids. Covent Garden is also a car-free setting, so is safe for a bit of wandering. Likewise, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park, and St. James’s Park are great recreation parks to let kids unwind, be free, and run around like the little mad rodents that they are. Likewise, London has several City Farms that teach and entertain kids (and adults) about English country life.
If you take a tour bus through London, you’ll sit next to other tourists and have paid eight-times the cost of the old-fashioned #11 double-decker red bus that leaves from Victoria Station. No. 11′s route takes you past Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, and along the Strand to St Paul’s Cathedral—all for about $1 apiece.
Children like museums, too, and each of London’s museums has interactive galleries specifically to entertain and teach kids. Actually, some of the most fun I’ve had in the last 15 years or so traveling around the world has been going through science museum galleries devoted to teaching kids (freaking them out, too) with all the odd anomalies found between human perception and scientific truths. Any-hoo….teens will like horror exhibits found in the London Dungeon, Madame Tussoud’s Chamber of Horrors, and The Clink (“where the word got its name”).
England has always been bashed against the Channel rocks for not having any decent cuisine, even if it was always well defined—boiled meats and stewed vegetables. Things have changed, and many restaurants now have a good reputation for their national dishes.
River Walk Restaurant has great views of the Thames and, at night, the city. The menu has a good selection of fresh fish befitting of the location, with steaks and fresh roasts vegetables, too. Barge House Street, 2nd floor. Oxo Tower, SE1.
The Bevis serves modern British cuisine with Middle Eastern and traditional Jewish influences. 19 Bevis Marks.
Guinea Grill has a superb menu of the traditional and modern British dishes. Some say it’s the best in town. 30 Bruton Place.
Rhodes 24 is in a financial district high rise tower with great views of the city. Its menu runs from British to pan-European. Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street.
East of Piccadilly Circus, Soho, Chinatown and Covent Garden are easy to walk around and form the heart of the West End entertainment district. Here you’ll find the largest concentration of theatres, cinemas, clubs, flashy shops, cafés and restaurants. It’s an area that deserve full focus, not individual highlights, because—as you’ll find—the club scene is happening on every street.
London is a Pub town. Pub is short for Public House, as opposed to so many of the private clubs we’ve all heard Britain (and London) is famous for. The separation was part of the English class system, and in some respects continues to exist. Nevertheless, you’ll get into a club only by invitation, so unless you have well-heeled friends in town, the Pub is your place to rub shoulders with the plebes. Pubs are on every street, it seems, and they are local hangouts for football enthusiasts (the season is long, and there always seems to be a match running on the “telly”). Wherever you’re staying, walk around after you first arrive and find a local pub that you can at least have a nightcap in, if not spend the evening. Food is often a staple of pub life, and some of it can be pretty good—especially the fish ‘n chips, which in a pub that’s off the tourist streets you’ll find fresh and get a large portion.
The London “Underground,” also called “The Tube” is the largest city commuter train system in the world. When you look at a map, the system can be terribly intimidating, and perhaps somewhat confusing. But try this: look at the system map in relation to a street map. Take some time to circle the tube stops near the sites you’ll visit. Now compare your marked up map with the regular system map. You’ll see a pattern, now, and understand more how to use the transfer stops to your advantage.
The London Underground has single ride, multi-zone, all-day passes, and multi-day passes. If you’re in London for 3 days or longer, get a multi-day pass. The price pays for itself in one day and evening of bopping around the city. Take it from someone who adores London and has been everywhere on its Tube system: you’ll break your legs and waste time trying to walk all of London; and even if you think you’re spending too much time waiting for trains, you’re not.
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