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London Calling...

Firstly I have a couple of small confessions to make about London.  My experience as a backpacker in the early nineties has meant that London has not been somewhere I have gone back to since.  Also my recent visit was too short so this is the first small instalment about London.

Now that I have that out of the way I will tell you the things I did experience and we can take it from there.  If you’d like to send me some suggestions for future visits I will be sure to check them out.

My trip started with a night out on the town. Central London is a great spot for an evening walk and pub-crawl around some of the most historic and atmospheric pubs you are likely to find anywhere.  Getting around in London is relatively simple if you know where you’re going so we take a bus to Southbank where you are spoilt for choice with regard to the type of food you feel like.  The chosen cuisine for the evening was French but you can have anything you like.

From there you can stroll across the Hungerford footbridge and wonder around town. You can stop in at Gordon’s wine bar, which is one of London’s oldest wine bars.  You might miss the narrow laneway but follow a map and duck down the narrow stairway to find this lively pub.  Wine is the order of the day and the real atmosphere is in the cave, which is candlelit, hot and steamy, but that is part of the fun.

From here it is a short walk to Trafalgar Square, which is very impressive not only for the statutes and fountains but also the grand buildings surrounding it.  The square’s origins are as a memorial to the English victory in the Napoleonic wars.  Today it is used for rallies and events but is always a buzz of activity. I always enjoy catching a glimpse of a black cab driving past the old red phone booths and getting the feeling of being transported back in time.

Keep walking to Chinatown. It’s a blaze of colour and lights because of the Moon festival. Our next stop was De Hems Dutch Cafe Bar.  There is a wide selection of Belgium beers on tap and the atmosphere is lively.  The DJ is cranking out some crowd favourites that the patrons obviously loved.  We didn’t eat there but it looks more like a drinking spot particularly on the weekend night.

From here it is a short stroll through the theatre district to Soho where the options are also numerous for a continued night out.  We ended up at the Dog and Duck Hotel , which was full and spilling onto the street as the patrons enjoyed the last of a summer evening. We were going to head to Ronnie Scott’s an excellent jazz bar around the corner but called it a night and caught one of the famous black cabs home.

A day in London would not be complete however without a trip shopping. Oxford Street is still very much the high street and as it was a weekend was packed with shoppers who were out braving the on and off again rain showers.  Selfridges have a new shoe hall, which we had to make a pilgrimage to on behalf of every female on earth.  It is very impressive with every type of shoe you could wish for.  The keynote designers have small rooms off to the side, which they have each decorated in their own style.  Just around the corner off Regent Street is an old-world favourite Liberty, which is home to the famous fabric house, which was founded in 1875. The building alone is a very impressive Tudor building that was built in 1924 from the wood of two ships. Walking around the shop gives you a sense that you are walking around in a piece of history.

Another very worthy walk around for an afternoon is in Notting Hill and Portobello Markets.  The terrace houses in the area have all been gentrified and it is a very pleasant place to walk around and get a feel for London life – well at least one part of London life! The markets offer everything you could imagine from antiques to fruit and vegetables.  The streets are lined with interesting stores that you can find yourself losing time in. All around are great little cafes and pubs for when you need a little pick me up.

If culture is more your thing I can recommend a trip to the rebuilt Globe Theatre.  This is the most famous of the locations in which Shakespeare wrote some of his plays. Unfortunately the original was burnt down during the Great Fire of London but now thanks to the passion of American actor and director Sam Wanamaker who spent nearly 30 years trying to reconstruct the former theatre, it now exists in its former glory.  It is a great shame that Sam died in 1993 before the new theatre was finished.  The theatre as it stands was finished in 1997 and has been reconstructed authentically down to the first thatch roof that has been allowed in Central London since the great fire. As the theatre is outdoors it is closed for performances during the winter months but they still offer tours and the museum is very informative both of the theatre itself and Shakespeare’s life and works.

London is also home to some of the world’s best museums.  On this visit I saw the Tate Modern , which is just near the Globe Theatre and across the river from the amazing St Pauls cathedral.  This museum is extensive and you have your usual choice of the permanent exhibits or special.  At the time there was an excellent documentary photography exhibition, which followed the development and some of the controversy around surveillance.  This is only one of the fabulous museums on offer and the Victoria and Albert is another. If you need a complete list take a look at this London Guide to Museums.

Travel photographs In London. Including travel images from Chinatown, The Thames River, The Globe Theatre, Trafalgar Square. Shopping in Oxford Street and Notting Hill

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