Learning London again

I’ve decided to go to London this spring for a few days. The major purpose of my trip is to visit the Old Man my Father (who is not a tree) but for the first time in my life I’m going to stay for a few days in London and play tourist. And it seems weird, but I feel I don’t know the city at all, despite having lived there for a few years (a long time ago); the last time I was there was ten years ago.

Stuff changes. I think the only city in England, other than my home town, that I feel I still know, is Bath–i.e., I don’t get lost immediately after leaving the train station. But London is always changing and reinventing itself.

So, on the list so far:

Burlington Arcade. Super posh, the world’s first indoor shopping mall and almost 200 years old, and still with a policy of keeping out the riff raff (it was built by Lord Cavendish who lived next door and was tired of people throwing oyster shells into his garden). Not that I’m going to buy anything there; but looking is free.

The Sir John Soane’s Museum, which I’ve heard is amazing and full of Regency goodness.

And from there, a quick jump over the river to The Globe. Will I get to a performance? Maybe. The friend I intend to meet up with in London is a real theater fan.

While on that side of the river, there are a few other places I’d like to go to, including the house in Deptford where Marlowe was murdered–apparently it’s still standing though I haven’t been able to find anything out about its location.

And further east, but on that side of the river, Greenwich–old pubs, the National Maritime Museum (full of Nelson goodness as I remember), the Cutty Sark, and the view over the river to Hampstead on a clear day; and also whatever spiffy new developments are on the other side of the Thames now. If I can, I intend to get there by river, going past St. Pauls and the Tower and all that good stuff.

So if you were in London for two or three days, what would your agenda be? (Noting how unfavorable the exchange rate is to the dollar). And do you like to plan or just do things on the spur of the moment?

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24 Responses to Learning London again

  1. Kalen Hughes says:

    My London highlights are (in no particular order): Hatchard’s, Fortnum and Mason, Osterley Park, The Victoria and Albert Museum, Fenton House (love that garden!), Andrew Edmunds (great print shop, nice restaurant by the same name nextdoor), Black Friar’s Pub (best fish and chips ever!).

  2. I’ll actually be in London for 3 days this fall, and have been trying to come up with an efficient plan for sightseeing! It’s very hard, sigh. πŸ™‚ Be sure and let us know what you enjoy the most there! (And the building in Deptford is still standing??? I just finished the book “The Lodger Shakespeare” that told us the Silver Street house he lived in for a time is now a car park)

    I was actually a bit disappointed in the Soane museum, not because of the content but because I tend to be claustrophobic and I started to feel ill there. Ack! Not fun!!!

  3. Elena Greene says:

    Wow, wish I could be there with you, Janet. My itinerary would include Soane, the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, and just walking around the parks and checking out areas where features that were around during the Regency still exist.

  4. janegeorge says:

    Wow, I think I’d just walk around and take it in. Discover stuff.

    I’d want to go to a pub that wasn’t touristy and eat fish and chips and have a really good ale.

    If I went in March I’d have to see the Grand national. But that’s Aintree. I’m sure there’s a train or something.

    Have a great time with your dad, Janet!

  5. Amanda, according to that terrific PBS series on Shakespeare (and I can’t remember the name of the series or the narrator) the house is still there. They filmed inside it–it’s rather shabby and has obviously been messed around with a lot. I rather think it’s a well kept secret.

    Kalen and Elena, I love the V&A too and I’ve just looked up Fenton House online and it looks great.

    And oh yes. Beer. Fish n chips. Mmmm.

  6. Diane Gaston says:

    Apsley House and The British Museum, especially the George III room and the Elgin Marbles.
    A slow walk through Mayfair…

  7. “They filmed inside it–it’s rather shabby and has obviously been messed around with a lot. I rather think it’s a well kept secret.”

    Wow. If you find it, be sure and let me know!!

  8. doglady says:

    A few days in London sounds divine! The Elgins for sure. The Soane. A stroll through Mayfair sounds lovely. Hatchards definitely! The British Museum. The National Gallery and a selection of the museum piece houses available.

  9. Eh, I was wondering if you were an Ent. Hm.

    Ammanda, you’re going to London?! Can I stow away in your luggage?

    I’m printing this page out. I have another one from Candice’s trip late last year. If I ever get to London (hint: Ammanda), I just may never return. So much to do.

  10. Delle Jacobs says:

    Janet, do you know the Cutty Sark burned to the waterline last year? Arson. Utterly tragic! There are some fund-raisers and massive attempts to rebuild I’m told.

    I need to go to the British Museum, Victoria & Albert, and probably Horse Guards. I saw very little of Mayfair, so I want to do that, and more of the Tower of London, which will please Jeff too.

    We went to the Globe the hard way, taking the tube into Southwark and gettingb thoroughly lost. When we finally found it, there was standing room only, so we stood as long as we could, finally leaving Romeo and Juliet before the last act. As we left, a desperate woman begged us to sell our tickets to her, so we re-couped half our ticket price. then we walked back over the Southwark Bridge just at sundown. An incredibly memorable day!

  11. When I was there last November I went to the V&A to see the Couture Exhibit, the National Portrait Gallery (I love wandering around from top to bottom looking at all the portraits), I took a Dickens walking tour and of course the Jack the Ripper walking tour with London Walks. I haven’t been to the Soane museum although I keep meaning to go. I would also go to Hampstead to see the Keats Museum again. I haven’t been to Kew Gardens in years but I would probably go there if it were summer, and to Kensington Palace in the Winter. Love the Burlington Arcade and the Royal Academy across the Street where I saw the Rodin exhibit.

  12. Diane Gaston says:

    I just have to say, I am so pining to go to England! I can hardly stand it. I’m so envious!

  13. Diane Gaston says:

    I just thought of another great place for you to visit in London!
    Your publisher, Little Black Dress!
    (but you’ve already thought of that, I guess….)

  14. “Ammanda, you’re going to London?! Can I stow away in your luggage?”

    You would have to come to Paris with me first, Keira! But I bet you wouldn’t want to do that… LOL

  15. Lois says:

    Oh dear lord, anything and everything I can shove in two or three days, I’ll do! πŸ™‚ I imagine I would try to hit anything/everything Regency related, but I also want to take a peek at 221B Baker Street. πŸ™‚

    And maybe see Phantom of the Opera in London. πŸ™‚


  16. Cara King says:

    I always see lots of plays when I’m there. That means I go to the half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square, so I always drop by the National Gallery, and often the National Portrait Gallery, while I’m in the area. And then I have to do the bookstores on Charing Cross Road. And perhaps get something from Pret a Manger (I miss them!) or buy a Tango at one of the 24-hour shops.

    And I’ll generally have afternoon tea somewhere, most commonly at Richoux, Fortnum & Mason, or Harrod’s. And I’ll pick up some tea at F&M or Harrod’s while I’m there.

    There’s not too much else that I do every time I visit, but common things include the Museum of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, walking around St James’s, Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Theatre Museum, St. James’s Park, going to the East End to eat in a traditional Pie and Mash shop, and going to the Twining’s Shop.

    Todd’s off to London tomorrow — I’ll ask him where he’s planning on going! (Besides universities to do that boring thing called work.) πŸ™‚


  17. Elena Greene says:

    I see you also asked about planning vs winging it. I used to think it would be so cool to wing it but most times I tried, I ended up wasting time trying to visit a place that was closed, etc… Now I plan ahead. πŸ™‚

  18. Todd says:

    I’m flying to London tomorrow–but I’ll mostly be working, unfortunately. I’ll be visiting King’s College on the Strand, just a short ways from Twining’s Tea Shop (still in its 18th century building, so well worth a look); I’m also giving a talk at Imperial College, which is near the Kensington museums (the V&A, Science, and Natural History museums). I may try to catch a play or two in the evening, depending on how tired I am and what’s showing. And my hotel is near Russell Square, so I may try to see a bit of the British Museum.

    Of the things you listed, Soane’s museum is wonderful, though you should definitely check its schedule ahead of time. The Cutty Sark did burn, but not to the waterline–the main structure was intact. Last year when we were in Greenwich they were planning to repair it, and I believe that work has begun, but I’d imagine it will be closed for the indefinite future.

    Cara already mentioned the bookshops along Charing Cross Road (between Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road). Very worth a look! Though they can make your luggage very heavy.

    A wonderful museum is the Wallace Collection, in Manchester Square, which is also free. It has two main things: period art, and period armaments. πŸ™‚ Though the website says some of the armories are closed at the moment for restoration work, though some of the items in them are on display elsewhere.

    Cara and I also have done some walking tours through historic parts of London–particularly Mayfair and St. James’s. A lot of the Gentlemen’s Clubs from the Regency are still there, and some of the shops. We found some good tours in a book by Teresa Chris called Georgette Heyer’s Regency England, though I fear that book is out of print and hard to find…

    Anyway, there are far more things worth seeing than one can see in a trip of any length! So it’s probably better to relax and enjoy whatever one gets to. πŸ™‚


  19. Cara King says:

    Oh, how could I forget the Wallace! That may be my favorite museum. (I LOVE 18th century art.)

    Typical overheard conversation:

    Cara [after spending two hours looking at paintings]: Wow, they have more stuff than I remember.

    Todd: Cool! Let’s now spend three hours looking at the armor.

    Cara: Peachy. You do that; I’ll sit and stare at this Fragonard for a while, then I’ll spend an hour in the shop.

    Todd: Okay. But I want to look in the shop too.

    Cara: I won’t object if you carry my umbrella.

    Todd: It’s a deal.


  20. Diane Gaston says:

    Amanda dropping city names. “London for a few days” “Paris first” — I’m turning green.

    Todd, I just can’t even speak. I’m so impressed. Imagine it. Todd speaking at Imperial College, King’s College. I’m really as green as green can be.

    (Have a wonderful time. Drink lots of Twining’s tea as Megan’s blog says)

  21. Have fun, Todd, and have a pint on me.

  22. Susan/DC says:

    The person over in the corner turning green with envy is me. Between the car and the cat, this has been a very expensive week (think mid-four figures) and a trip to Europe is something I’ll have to do vicariously for a while until the finances recover.

    One of my favorite museums in London is the War Offices (not sure if that’s the official name), where Winston Churchill and other government officials worked underneath the city during WWII. Lots of cool stuff, and you get a sense of how frightening it must have been to be below ground while the blitzkrieg went on overhead. As for the Sir John Soane’s, I thought it was great but understand Amanda’s claustrophobia. He was a magpie of the first order, and there’s just so much stuff that the buildings are crammed to the rafters. I’m not sure I detected a particular order to the collection, but it was fun nonetheless.

    Have a great time and give your father a hug (much pleasanter I’m sure than hugging an Ent).

  23. Todd, tip o’ the hat to you and your talk.

    (Cara, I had no idea he was Big Boots.)

    Janet, 97! WOW! A very very happy birthday to him!

    Ammanda, Paris? Hm…Let me think about that for a second… YES!

  24. Todd says:

    Diane wrote:

    Todd, I just can’t even speak. I’m so impressed. Imagine it. Todd speaking at Imperial College, King’s College. I’m really as green as green can be.

    Jane Lockwood wrote:

    Have fun, Todd, and have a pint on me.

    Keira wrote:

    Todd, tip o’ the hat to you and your talk.

    Thanks to you all for the kindly thoughts! And I’ll probably need the pint after my talk. πŸ™‚ Truthfully, the talk is not a big deal…it’s how academics justify going to cool places. πŸ™‚

    Best wishes to Janet and Amanda on their upcoming travels!


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