London Travel, England
Dec 31, midnight firework display beside the big Wheel. Huge but not very subtle and extremely crowded. To see the New Year’s fireworks in relatively uncrowded comfort try the Skylon bar in the Royal Festival Hall or take a boat on the Thames.
Jan 1, New Year’s Day Parade, wacky English folk and plenty of foreign imports, such as American marching bands but a bit lacking in pizzazz, especially if you have a hangover. More effective for families and kids.
Early May, the London Marathon.
June, Trooping the Colour, the Queen’s birthday military parade. Outdoors, impeccable performances and free.
June, Wimbledon tennis tournament.
July, The Royal Tournament, a massive military show, indoors at Earl’s Court.
End of August, Notting Hill Carnival, 2/3 days. Not really up to Caribbean standards but colourful and lively.
Tate Britain gallery of painting and sculptures, London, England
Set in lovely buildings old and new, mostly free of charge. e. g. Also free are some galleries such as the Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the weird little Serpentine in Hyde Park, Royal Academy (fantastically eclectic Summer Exhibition June-August) Hayward, and White Cubefor provocative stuff.
Classical Music: The Proms in Royal Albert Hall (July-Sept), Covent Garden Festival (May/June), free summer lunchtime concerts in churches all over the place, Kenwood Lakeside Concerts, South Bank Centre, Wigmore Hall etc.
Dance/Opera: Try the restored Royal Opera House, the Coliseum, the South Bank Centre, Sadler’s Wells + ICA + Riverside for more avant-garde stuff.
Theatre: the city is packed with big shows as well as little fringe things, mainly in ‘theatreland’ area. Try SOLT in Leicester Square for half price same day tickets, or call Ticketmaster/First Call. And don’t forget Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the South Bank for an authentic medieval performance.
Comedy: Plenty of this. The Comedy Store is #1 and Fri/Sat nights best, but avoid August as all the funny people are in Edinburgh at the festival.
Live Music: Plenty of this too, but avoid mega-shows at Wembley and don’t buy from touts. Some good medium-size venues are: Astoria, Brixton Academy, Forum, Hackney Empire, Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
Check excellent ‘Time Out’ magazine for event info/listings.
Free lunchtime classical concerts at St Martins church next to Leicester Square or St James, off Piccadilly.
Spas: the very best is apparently the Sanctuary in Covent Garden, women only but not too pricey.
London city vs the City of London
The City of London, not the city of London!
The first is what you would expect, all of the large city.
The second is the medieval city of London that is now mostly a core business and legal district on the north bank of The Thames river, roughly stretching from Covent Garden to Tower Bridge, including St Paul’s Cathedral, the ‘Erotic Gherkin’ and the Tower of London.
Forget traditional British food which is truly terrible and look for adventure in the more modern restaurants with which London is stuffed or superb, diverse and authentic foreign cuisine along the lines of Thai, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Italian, Brazilian, Malaysian. . .
Excellent healthy/tasty fast food places are all around. The Pret-a-Manger chain is especially efficient, tasty, healthy and fast for quality snacking.
Entry to many attractions, such as the Tower of London, is much cheaper if you have a student or youth card.
Liberty’s fabric store in Regent Sreet.
Classy: The new kid on the block is Westfield roofed shopping centre, a very classy and comfortable browsing environment in any weather, with plenty of upmarket shops from Armani and Apple to Zara. Get there via Shepherd’s Bush tube.
Always popular with the affluent shoppers are Bond Street and Knightsbridge (Harrods etc) for very high quality branded goods, Kensington, Chelsea and Regent Street (especially Liberty’s, above) for more variety and less price, but still upmarket.
Regular folk looking for reasonably modern style at the right price shop in Oxford Street or for tech and gadget bargains try Tottenham Court Road.
Wacky stuff: Camden Lock Market, Portobello market (weekends), Covent Garden, Neal Street.
Short Trips out of London (a day or two)