On the off chance that ayb comes across this thread:
If you had to choose 5 things that a visitor to London just had to see/do, what would they be? I'm visiting for the first time this summer, and I don't want to spend my 3 days in London going to a bunch of museums and palaces.
The reason why I'm soliciting advice from you is because over the years I've found that I really appreciate your perspective on things. Plus, we're around the same age and have similar interest (at least judging by your posts). Thanks.
He's on facebook, go post it there and he should see it.
Hello OP. Sorry I'm late, thanks for the ego-massage- very welcome! I'm not sure I'm the best tour guide for London, though. I stick to central and generally just work, eat, drink or shop there.
I'll do my best...
1) If you're after a 'British Experience' and don't want to do anything museum-7, then why not take afternoon tea at a posh, old-skool hotel and pretend you're a character in an Agatha Christie novel? I went for this a few years ago on my birthday, but with someone stiff and too middle class, who made it boring. Go with someone fun, and have a laugh with it- but don't be too vulgar darling, you don't want to be [italic]that[/italic] person. I went to The Goring, but I'm not sure that's the best. The Ritz one imagines would be too full of tourists. Be sure to dress up, however.
2) If you like culture, then catching a film at the BFI on the Southbank is a must. They often have seasons, and it's not too expensive in the main. Don't bother with the food in the cafe there though, it's overpriced and there isn't much of it.
3) If you're looking for somewhere different to eat at, then the National Portrait Gallery restaurant has pretty good food, and isn't too expensive either. Plus the views are quite interesting, being high up but not ridiculously so. You might spy some interesting roof terrace activity elsewhere if you've a good pair of eyes. DON'T go to the OXO Tower- I did, it's overpriced and the food and service and even the furniture are shabby. The views just aren't worth it.
4) Boozing. Soho you probably know, but if you don't I will tell you this. Comptons is exorbitantly expensive, but has a good atmosphere and is cruisy in a (generally) good way. The rest are alright, stay in the Old Compton Street area and surrounding if you want gay. If you're looking for a proper non-gay London boozer, you're out of luck. Even my favourite 'secret' ones of the last 10 years are starting to get too popular now. The ones that aren't have been gastropubbed. If you want an authentic British Pub experience you have to go out of London.
5) The Tate Modern is yes, obvious, but more importantly, free entry and it has a vast amount you can see for that; and more besides if you hand over your cash. The bar has nice views, particularly worth seeing at night, of course.
In all honesty, if you're after something a bit off the beaten track, ask someone else who actually lives and breathes the place would be my advice. But thanks for thinking me your go-to person, even if probably incorrectly so.
As soon as you get to London, get on one of the 1/2 day guided bus tours of the city. You'll see ALL the important sights and will know your way around town at the end of that tour. From that, you'll know exactly what you want to see and do, and you'll know how to get there.
AYB, have you been to the Bowie exhibit at the V & A?
Ayb, that was interesting even though I'm not going to London.
[bold]R2 is an impostor![/bold]
I'm AYB and I'd suggest:
1) Visit the Tower of London and look at all the jewls. Yeah, half weren't cut properly. Lick the dented stone steps. They bring luck.
2) Go to the Near West-End and watch a [italic]Friends[/italic] reading. It's culture!
3) Ride a tube. Get off at Shepherd's Bush. Pull up your panties and get back on the tube.
4) Visit Cardiff. Eat MacDonald. Blow Harry. Suck off James.
5) Drop a deuce in the middle of Undershaft. Announce you've discovered St. Mary Axe.
R7, you'll be hearing from my lawyers, darling.
Thanks for the advice, ayb! I'll be staying in Shoreditch, near the Liverpool Street Station (based on the recommendation of a friend) and I've already bought an Oyster card...so I'm hoping to see as much as I can in the few days I'm in London. I forgot all about the Tate Modern, which I've always wanted to visit...and the BFI idea sounds like a definite must. Oddly enough, when I visited Dublin back in 2008, one of the highlights of my trip was seeing "Control" at the Irish Film Institute...I love shit like that. The Goring Hotel idea sounds interesting, but ultimately I don't have the guts. I'm traveling alone and I'd feel a little intimidated going to a posh hotel by myself.
Out of curiosity, are people in London openly hostile toward Americans? Will I offend anyone if I--with no harm intended--slip into the fake British accent I've been honing since I was a little boy?
I remember AYB primarily from his his cute cat photos and the way thatch/grass grew on the roof of his house.
If you're in Shoreditch, OP, you really ought to check out the free and amazing (and beautifully designed, with a wonderful cafe/restaurant) Geffrye Museum. Converted almshouses that show the middle-class households from the Reformation onwards. Fascinating stuff and the "1990s" house is both ironic and too painful and close, with its River Cafe cookbook, VHS player and "loft living".
All in all one of my favourite London museums. There's even an Elizabetha herb garden on the grouds.
[quote]Will I offend anyone if I...slip into the fake British accent I've been honing since I was a little boy?
Kind people might think you are bravely coping with a neurological condition. Others will laugh in your face. Try it and see.
What R12 said, OP. If you need a guide, you know where to find me.
I promise I'm joking about the British accent thing! I'll be a good American throughout my short stay...at least until I get to Heathrow and turn into a megabitch due to the inconvenience of having to go through customs.
Thanks again, ayb. You have not disappointed...and I'd also like to thank R3 and R11...both ideas sound pretty interesting. One last question: What kind of weather can I expect in mid-June? A little research says I can expect 68 degrees fahrenheit/20 degrees Celsius...but it also seems like the weather will be fairly dreary. Is that the case?
Come to me bedsit! Bring money! I'll make you beans on toast and 'ave a cuppa! We can listen to Smiths' records!
If only R15 was the real ayb :(
Anyway, I'm going to try and be flexible while in London; however, I've narrowed my list of "must see" attractions to:
- The British Museum
- The BFI
- The Geffreye Museum
- Tate Modern
- The British Library Reading Room
- White Cube
- The National Portrait Gallery (is that's where they keep that picture of that lazy woman married to the tall balding guy who's related to Princess Diana?)
- and Regent's Canal
In terms of food, can anybody vouch for the following places (and if not, more recommendations are greatly appreciated)?
- Queen of Hoxton
- [...] Canteen
- Hoxton Furnace
- Boundary Restaurant and Bar
ayb has done his part...does anyone else have any advice?!
If you're going to the Tate Modern, start out at the Tate Britain and its Turner Galleries. Then take the water bus along the Thames to the Tate Modern. Both water bus stops are close to the museums and it's a pretty great view.....
Sounds like a great idea, R18.
I made reservations for tea at The Goring. The idea of dressing up and going someplace didn't seem like my idea of fun at first; however, I actually clean up pretty nice and I figure I don't have anything to lose.
Perhaps go for a cup of tea with ayb and a long walk along the north/ east London section of the Regent's canal. You may see a Victorian dead body floating by, although it may be a public art installation originating from Hoxton.
If you want an anthropological period of study and observation mixed with a night out drinking in a gay club, try Central Station in Kings Cross. There you will find that 'the missing link' thrives, but don't slip on the patina of tears and cum.
The Ritz is much too stuffy.
Mind the gap.
Diane just mentioned the "fog of information."
My two 'must see' attractions for someone going to London are the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. Apart from those, take the bus tour.
OP, you've got some nice plans! I'm late to the DL party and don't know of ayb, but like his suggestions. By all means do a fancy afternoon tea. The Goring is a small family hotel, has a nice tea. See photo. Suit up. "Establishment" men of London wear coat and tie, not hoodies. In the front hall pat the bust of The Queen Mother. Then walk through Grosvenor Gardens to Victoria Station and see how looks a busy London railway terminus, then go over to the nearby Victoria Palace Theater and get a ticket for BILLY ELLIOT.
The National Portrait Gallery shows you the story of the country via paintings of people. Check out a stunning portrait of Judi Dench in Room 37. There's a roof-top restaurant and bar, great London views. For me it's too expensive for what it is.
Do remember to get good fish 'n chips somewhere. Take the Central Line to Lancaster Gate. Go along the Bayswater Road. (On Sunday, walk along and see the art show.) The Swan is a good pub, across from the park. Up at the corner is Craven Terrace … walk up to The Mitre. (Woody Allen shot there in SCOOP.) If you've a Sunday, any pub features a Sunday Joint.
Gay Compton Street is no better no worse than anywhere. Touristy, bustling. It's possible to get laid. Walk down Earl's Court if you can.
The Tate Modern is a must! Take the tube to St. Paul's, walk through the churchyard, note the church, crossover and walk over the Millennium footbridge, a steel suspension wonder over the Thames, to the Tate in Bankside. The Turbine Hall and the Tanks are fine examples of adaptive reuse. Too, lots of smart gift things in the Shop.
To ride the Big Bus around the city is a good idea, seeing the sights and getting a feel of the city. Or get a hop-on hop-off open bus. Marble Arch has many going off.
You may be there when Buckingham Palace tours are on. Kensington Palace has a nice tour, too. Go to either. I rolled my eyes when they were first mentioned; dumb me; they are great fun if you've the time. Nice to see how The Other Half -- read Royals -- live.
I think you'll find the Brits love Americans.
HAVE A SMASHING TIME
Thanks for the suggestions, Edga. I've been enjoying your posts in other threads over the past year...
All of the feedback I've received has me lamenting the fact that I'll only be in London for 2.5 days. I'm going to try and do most of what's been recommended on this thread...with the exception of going to see a play. It'd be cool to say I've seen a play on the West End, but that'd take up a good deal of money and time.
Yeah, the constraints of time in London, so much to do, so little time, but here's a thought. In the famous West End one night at 7:30 try to take three hours before you go out and see PHANTOM of the OPERA, one of the most famous shows in the history of musical theater … see the original production back where it all began! Get a cheap seat @ £21, that's about $32.50, and you're in the house. It'd make a great story and memory.
If not this trip ... another time!
Well, I'm in London and it's not at all what I was expecting. The people are friendlier, but Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace weren't as grand as I was expecting (doesn't help that I just left Paris, which is full of awe-inspiring architecture). That said, afternoon tea at the Goring was amazing, as was dinner at The Dove Freehouse and Kitchen.
Tomorrow I'm going to do a Sandeman Tour to get a lay of the land, and also hit up The Geffrye Gallery, The Portrait Gallery and The British Museum. After a nap, I want to hit up the gay part of town and hopefully meet some new "friends" (and get laaaaid). I'll be ending my trip with a visit to the Tate Modern
ayb sent me there years ago. 2.5 days isn't enough, but so glad you saw Paris, which I prefer, but that's like comparing diamonds vs. emeralds. All good.
In the middle of my third night in London, got a call from my brother with the news that our father had died suddenly.
I floated around the city aimlessly without a plan or purpose. It was like an out-of-body experience. The weather was appropriately gray (and in June) and dreary but the people were such a scream and so kind. Didn't tell anyone about my Dad. But I must have looked lost and defeated and empty. The reserved, stodgy English were incredibly warm to me in their reserved, stodgy, English way.
My absolute favorite thing to do in London was to sit in the front seats of double-decker buses and ride all morning long, then buy a decadent picnic spread from Spencer and Marks. I ate my lunches and drank my wine in Regent's park and in front of some aristocrat's stairs in Mayfair, like a proper homeless person. It seemed illegal, and was therefore fun.
Don't know where you're from, OP, but the gardens are unique and spectacular. Big Ben, Westminster, etc., bored me but I'll never forget the gardens.
On a side note, can anyone please tell me about Earl's Court vs. King's Cross? I always get them confused. King's Cross was a seedy part of Sydney where a friend used to live. Hated it. It was the only bad part of Australia I saw. The Earl's Court area in London was very nice. Is there also a neighborhood in London called "King's Cross"?
[quote]My absolute favorite thing to do in London was to sit in the front seats of double-decker buses and ride all morning long, then buy a decadent picnic spread from Spencer and Marks. I ate my lunches and drank my wine in Regent's park and in front of some aristocrat's stairs in Mayfair, like a proper homeless person.
I love to do that. I usually pick up lunch at a deli in the morning and around noon, look for a nice park to sit and eat outdoors.
Good to hear from you, OP. What's the gay part of town, precisely? Tate Modern is lovely. Be sure to look out from the window near Rothko paintings toward St. Pauls. The framing of the alignment with the bridge and St. Paul's is splendid.
I'm not OP, but I am going there in August, and while it's mu fourth visit there, I've not done most of what ayb suggests.
A question: is going to The Globe worth it?
Also, any restaurant recommendations?
R34, today a Londoner told me that The Globe is worth it, and August is the best time to go.
That said, today was absolutely exhausting and I *still* didn't get to see everything I had intended. I did walking tours of Westminster City and Old London, but never made it inside the Tower of London, any of the museums, or the gay part of town. This evening I had a disappointing experience at The Pub on the Park (good food, horrible service)...and decided to come back to the flat I'm renting and watch an episode of Mad Men / write in my journal / go to sleep. One thing that's hit me particularly hard today is the fact that it's my last night and any hopes I had in the area of romance are officially dead. I'm an attractive guy; however, I seemed to get very little attention this entire trip. Sigh.
You must be grossly American, OP, because London is the world gay capital of slutty easiness.
What is grossly American? I have a universal hipster-ish look that seems to be popular here. If anything, I might be a little TOO stand-offish; however, I like outgoing guys and wouldn't mind if they made the first move.