Tag: St. Pauls

For A Good Time In London

Travelling to London soon? Not to worry there is plenty to do here, both on and off the beaten track, and not all of it will cost you an arm and a leg. But do count your pennies before leaving home – you will likely need them. Though an expensive city by anyone’s measures, London has plenty on offer that is gratis, too, as well as lots to do somewhere in between.

Having lived here some eighteen years, I can vouch for that and often do when offering visitors advice on what’s hot and well, what’s not.

But recently when asked to make some suggestions for someone who will be celebrating her 50th birthday here in November, I decided to give it some real thought from the eyes of a local, if you will. How would I describe My London, the bits that bring a good visitors guide to life? Don’t leave home without one, a visitor’s guide that is, which is the first suggestion I can offer. Though I don’t have a favourite, I would suggest one that suits your lifestyle and budget for food, for example.

There’s nothing worse than showing up to an alleged fine restaurant, which is teaming with youthful folks happily sharing a small table and loud noise. Okay, there are a few things worse but the point is use a guide that suits you.

The second bit of info I’ll share is to use your human resources, if you have any. Not everyone knows me, thankfully, but most people know someone who knows someone. Locals often have inside information, even about the big attractions, how to avoid the crowds and so on, which leads to the next need to know bit of information – avoid train stations/the tube during rush hour.

Sure, it is the fastest mode of transport in London but can be the most uncomfortable when everyone is trying to get home after a gruelling day at work, which is why I often suggest a river bus instead, if it will get you where you need to go. And if it doesn’t, take a river boat tour at your leisure; it’s a wonderful way to see the city.

In other modes of transport, when walking is not in order, there are always the London black cabs, zipping in and out of traffic and these days, plenty of Uber taxis waiting in the wings. And of course, the London bus is always one stop away along your route. Also, check out the hop on and off tours, a good way to get around and learn a bit, too.

Now with the general info sorted, where does one start?

  • Knightsbridge, if you ask me. While some think the glamorous shopping haven is either overrated or so yesterday, I still love it today. With both Harvey Nichols and Harrods at the centre and Sloane Street running through it, there is something for everyone, if only window shopping. In addition, there are plenty of high street shops. But if it is all a bit too much for your pocketbook; plan a trip to Hackney Walk, the trendy outlet centre in Hackney, which is a bit off the beaten path but worth the trek.
  • Other shopping areas include Fulham Road and general area in South Kensington. One of my favourite shops is Carven. Also, there is the busy Oxford Street, too busy for me, but occasionally I head over to Selfridges and then to Liberty on Regent’s Street for a quieter, gentler shopping experience.
  • Shopped out and just need some culture. My BFF’s favourite museum, the Victoria & Albert, is just down the road from the Knightsbridge shops. Not only is it grand to look at outside, it is fascinating inside with over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity.
  • For more culture, head to my favourite art gallery, The Royal Academy. Tucked away in a quiet corner in Piccadilly, it’s just beautiful. Other galleries scattered about town include the Tate, and the Tate Modern. And recently, I went to the Newport Street Gallery, with works drawn from Damien Hirst’s art collection. A little off the beaten path, but it is all the rage.  Back to the centre, however, for a bit of English tradition take a tour of the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace. Lucky me, I tagged along with my husband for a private tour recently. 
  • For food on the go, the museums and galleries have cafes and restaurants and in Knightsbridge, check out the trendy 5th floor at Harvey Nichols.  From sushi to burgers and lobster, it is all there but if you are looking for something a bit more upscale, try Bar Boulud at the Mandarin, but you might want to book ahead of time to secure a space.
  • Fine restaurants for an evening out – lots of choice there! Recently, I went to Kai in Mayfair and had a wonderful time. A bit off the beaten path is Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, another all time favourite. Both to be booked well in advance. 
  • Just want to hang out – now we are talking gratis. From strolling along Piccadilly to sitting around Trafalgar Square, hanging out in London is amazing. These days, I am surprised at how often visitors miss the the South Bank, a buzzy area that always excites.  Just across the Embankment. Easy peasy!
  • And there is, of course, Covent Garden. With piazza after piazza and street artists on every corner, you will never bore there, which leads to where to end the evening.
  • Dinner is always in order and theatre in the West End is highly recommended for anyone, but certainly for a special celebration. On that note, I thought I would make a recommendation and could not believe that I have hardly seen anything lately that is still on, except for some of the long running musicals, for example. What does this mean? Time to catch a play. Hint!
  • Last but not least, check out the plethora of churches, chapels and cathedrals from Westminster Abbey to St. Paul’s. And if you want to go to a service,  Holy Trinity Brompton, where I attend, welcomes everyone.

That about covers it, right! It doesn’t even scratch the surface, but it’s a start. The key to enjoying London is to plan strategically and then pace yourself. But throughout it all, you can’t miss the most fascinating bit, if you ask me–its views, not only from the likes of the Shard, the London Eye, but from the boats, the buses, the bridges, the ground. See this great city for what it is, wherever you tour. That’s really all you need for a good time in London.


Going the six mile distance and looking ahead

A few weeks before turning the Big 5-0 last year, I panicked that I hadn’t achieved all the things that I wanted to achieve by that milestone. What was I going to do about it? Sink or swim? After a short debate with myself, I decided to swim, though I literally don’t know how, and have never been much interested in learning either.

But I do know how to run. Ah ha! Very interesting, I thought and willed myself to sign up for a race and then running school to secure my goal. You see, I had been playing at running so to speak, since stalling in a race in middle school.

Thus, one of the fifty goals I set for myself to attain before my next birthday was to run a major race. Not to worry, all goals were not as lofty as this one.

Good thing or I’d have to admit defeat. Although, I’m thrilled to have gone the distance, well over two months before the deadline, I ache beyond what a fit finisher should ache.

Hence, the foot and leg massage at the Chelsea Day Spa.

Meanwhile, let me tell you a little bit about my race. I ran it, the British 10k, along with approximately 20,000 people, not in record time, but in 1 hour 19 minutes roughly. Metaphorically, I ran a blind race. All I can remember focusing on to any degree was the Blackfriars underpass because it was a haven of shade. Imagine.

Definitely an iconic route as pegged by the race promoters, the 10K starts on Piccadilly and winds through St James, goes along the Embankment, up to the City and back to Parliament Square and ends at the junction of Royal Horse Guards. Apparently, I passed St. James Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey (kind of remember) and countless more notable landmarks.

Though I have driven around and sauntered around the areas many times,  I didn’t see much Sunday.

My brother wrote yesterday and asked if I had run the entire time.

“Of course,” I boasted!

But I didn’t confess that around the 6k marker, I fiddled desperately with my iPhone until I finally had to stop and get some much needed music to spur me on. I must have lost a minute or two there,  and once in the tunnel, I stalled after being bumped and then again on the Embankment. On Victoria Street, as I turned the final corner to head to the finish line, I went into a power walk for about five seconds and realised that  walking could be the death of my finish, so back to a slow jog I went.

I made it! Photos to prove it!

Despite the hot weather and the fact that I had not trained properly throughout June, I celebrated my finish, time included,  jubilantly, perhaps a little too jubilantly.

While getting ready to meet the family for some champers, I had my first glass of the bubbly. Cool and crisp though it was, I’m not bubbling today, nor was I yesterday, climbing up and down stairs in train stations. Still I feel great to have gone the distance. Never mind the hurdles, the roadblocks, the near quits.

I am a runner; for real! I can’t promise that I will become an enthusiast or a recorder breaker for that matter, but never again, knowingly, will I stall at the start line. Never!

No looking back, for me; it’s all looking ahead. Next!

Going the six mile distance and looking ahead_1  Going the six mile distance and looking ahead_3 Re-energising Going the six mile distance and looking ahead_2 Crossing the Finish Line_5Crossing the Finish Line