I was recently in London for 4 days with my daughter. Here are some discoveries new to us.
The London Underground has always been the best way to get around London quickly, safely and inexpensively. Cabs are now $12 – $15 for a minor downtown trip.
The Oyster card, introduced in a minor way in 2003 and improved upon ever since, is the new form of electronic ticketing. You ‘touch’ the card on an electronic reader upon entering and leaving the Tube. Twenty pounds ($30) bought me more than enough underground trips for the 4 days. Thirty pounds bought my daughter enough trips for 4 days plus a round trip between Heathrow and Knightsbridge. Considering that a taxi one-way from Heathrow is 50 pounds, that’s a good deal!
I still love Boots more than Super Drug. It is just a more charming chain, and has a great selection of British candy bars in addition to all the wonderful Boots label cosmetics and lotions.
Thornton’s Toffee became my newly discovered snack of choice. It is yummy, especially the flavor that has a slight taste of molasses. There are Thornton’s stores all over the city, but I found the one on Oxford Street.
South Molton Street has fun shopping especially Butler & Wilson (# 20) for wild and fun costume jewelry.
Muji is a fun, minimalistic Japanese store. They sell all the fundamentals one needs for a busy urban life. There are nice accessories for one’s desk, housewares, clothing and furniture – all with simplicity as the common thread. There are stores all over London: King’s Road, Oxford Street., Kensington High St., and Carnaby Street.
Check out their U.S store at http://www.muji.us/store/
L.K. Bennett has affordable prices for nice shoes and separates. There are stores at 31 Brook St. and 83 King’s Road.
Office Shoes has shoes – some very cute and others with classic style – along with wacky stuff. All of it is very affordable. We went to the one at 190 Oxford Street.
If you must go to Harrods, make sure you get a store guide wherever you enter or you will go crazy trying to sort out where you are. Don’t get me wrong, I have a long- standing loyalty to Harrods; but apparently I no longer have the stamina it takes to keep up my side of the relationship. If you get tired, the East Dulwich Deli on the 5th floor is a quiet spot where you can get delicious quiche and salad, sandwiches, and coffees to reenergize.
If you have girls ages 13 – 25 in tow, Harrods’ young and trendy 4th floor is fabulous. Go to the “Junior Collections” and “Way In” departments.
Another shopping spot for that age is Top Shop. Top Shop is quite a scene, but you can always find a few treasures. The largest Top Shop is at the corner of Oxford and Regent Streets.
Top Shop has a slightly lower-priced line of stores called Whistles which we also liked. There is a store on South Molton Street and one at 31 King’s Road.
We liked Hoss Intropia at 211 Regent Street or 27A Sloane Square. This is a chain from Spain and we were attracted to its styles and approach to fashion for today’s young woman.
The Barbican in The City is Europe’s largest multi-arts center. It has music, art, theater, dance, film and educational events. It is also home to the London Symphony orchestra. See the great website for current events.
If it’s nice weather, a walk in Hyde Park is nice, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is lovely. The Serpentine Gallery is also worth a visit. It is a one-show gallery, and had a show focusing on Richard Hamilton’s political paintings when I was there.
The Cabinet War Rooms and the new (in the past 5 years) Churchill Museum are really worth a visit. The War Rooms are where Churchill and his aides lived underground during the bombings in World War 11. It’s fascinating.
The Churchill Museum begins with WW2 and works backwards. It has a fabulous, high-tech, 50 foot long video table called The Lifeline. We could have played with it for hours. They are at Clive Steps, King Charles Street. http://cwr.iwm.org.uk/
She also loved the Science Museum. The Wellcome institute houses its collection at the Royal College, but it has exhibits on view at the Science Museum on the top floor and she thinks they’re the finest exhibits in the museum
She spent an entire day at the Natural History Museum and especially loved the Cocoon journey in the newly opened Darwin Center. The Cocoon explores the inner workings of science and scientists. It has high tech installations and interactive activities for all ages.
The Darwin Center can be used by up to 200 scientists at a time, as well as accommodating 2,500 people viewing the interactive exhibits every day.
Admission is free.
This trip we looked for a small hotel with a great location, good personal service, room service, and a gym either on site or nearby. Here are some we found that came highly recommended.
The Capital at 22 Basil Street Knightsbridge
Number 16 at 16 Sumner Place South Kensington
The Belmond Cadogan at 75 Sloane St. Knightsbridge
The Levin at 28 Basil St. Knightsbridge
We went to two old favorites in the West End theater district. J. Sheekey is known for its delicious fish. We tried ray for the first time and loved it. The Ivy is always fun. The food is good, and the celebrity watching can be great. Make reservations.
Patara is a wonderful small Thai restaurant at 9 Beauchamp Place. The food was delicious. Make a reservation.
La Petite Maison is especially nice on warm evenings. They put tables outside along a tiny hidden square – fresh air, people watching and no traffic. French ‘Cuisine Nicoise’ food. In Mayfair near Bond Street at 54 Brooks Mews.
Wonder what’s trending in London? The BBC News and Blogs will keep you updated, in real time.
We found some great packing apps to make the trip easier. See Living out of a Suitcase.