Saturday, April 23, 2011

Highlights of London

Sadly, we have said "adiós y hasta pronto" to Spain and the mainland of Europe and are ending our trip with a couple weeks in London. Although we've been to London before, it was many years ago and only for a brief time. Much of it is as I remember and there are some things much improved. Having a longer time to visit this go round has allowed us to explore beyond just the core city and check out some of the 'burbs'.

We're staying in an area Southeast of the city, Forest Hill. A very nice "commuter" town, with some great local pubs, restaurants and parks. Our flat here is very cozy and the perfect place to relax after long days of sightseeing. Our hosts have been most friendly and accommodating. Forest Hill is a very quick and convenient train ride into London Bridge and downtown London.

Here are some of the highlights I'd like to share:

Shortly after arriving, we quickly found our favorite place for beer and mussels in London, Belgo. Last time we were here, there was only one location, now there are several... but just as we remember, the food was fantastic and the beer selection (mostly Belgian and Trappist) was extensive. The specific Belgo location we tried was close to the Covent Garden tube station which is nice, but touristy, shopping area with many shops and pubs.

Vinopolis (like Metropolis of Vino) is a newer attraction that is in an old warehouse below London Bridge train station. This place is a delight for those wishing to try fine wines (and other spirits) from around the Globe without having to circumvent it. We choose the tasting option that included a two course dinner from their Cantina. Pricey, but well worth it. The food was delicious and the beverage tasting plentiful. Vinopolis is in the Bankside area of town and surrounded by waterfront pubs, medium to high-end restaurants and the Borough Market... go there hungry.

Proud Cabaret, a couple blocks from the Monument Tube Station is a step back in time. Mainly a burlesque and dinner theater, this place has a style and charm that seems all but gone these days. From the impeccable service of the staff and the flair of the bartenders to the emcee and performers, this place is a class act. Dinner reservations are hard to get, but if you show up about 90 minutes before the show you can get a good seat at a bar table and see the show.

The Camden Town area of London is a fantastic market and shopping district. As with most markets in London its best to go between Thursday and Sunday. There are several hundred vendors selling every thing from food (name the ethnicity and style) to clothing and random junk. A must see. Spend an afternoon wondering through the many markets and if you fancy a tattoo... there is no shortage of parlors. Think Little 5 Points in Atlanta about 25 times larger, London style.

Greenwich is the home of the Royal Naval College, the Cutty Sark, the Royal Observatory and due to it's location at 00'00.0" longitude, the home of Greenwich Mean Time. A small area of town, but delightfully quaint. It is very reminiscent of old town Annapolis. The park leading up to the Observatory is vast and on a warm spring afternoon full of sunbathers, bicyclists, picnickers and the like. There is a small market off the main square that is typical of London markets... and as such, open Thursday - Sunday.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the free admission to both the British Museum and the Tate Museum of Modern Art. The British museum's exhibits on the history of world currency and timepieces are worth the trip alone. While the Tate seems to be everything the British Museum is not... the surrealism exhibit is quite nice.

I don't know when we will make it back here, but each time I am in London I learn to appreciate it more... I hope the next time is not too far off. We're on a journey to visit Bath and Stonehenge tomorrow... stay tuned.

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