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Random London Tips for Monkey Mama

June 12th, 2017 at 08:22 am

OK, Monkey Mama, here we go:
First, get an Oyster card for transportation at Heathrow or Gatwick. The tube station at Heathrow has them, and you will be happy you did. They can be used on the bus, tube, and various other places. ‘ You’re probably planning on walking a lot, but your feet will get tired. And people walk VERY fast except for tourists who stop at the bottom of the escalator and in other inopportune places. When they say stand on the right on the escalator, they mean it.
The tube is easy, but crowded and you don’t see much except people’s armpits. I much prefer the bus when you have time. The site tfl.gov.uk is your friend for all transportation planning. Black cabs are expensive and don’t get in the non-licensed minicabs. Uber is around, but the bus in non-rush hour is great. I’d skip the tourist buses and try one of these. http://www.londonforfree.net/bus-tour/ or http://londonist.com/2016/02/london-s-10-best-bus-routes. That “Londonist” site is great for daily things happening.
The biggies for me are
• Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament—come out of the Westminster tube station for maximum (AH!) effect. Then walk along the river after that.
• Trafalgar Square. It’s the geographical epicenter of London. Best bus there is the #24 or Charing Cross tube. The steps to the National Gallery are “my spot.” Look down across the square and you can see the river and Big Ben. I saw them filming Wonder Woman there last year. Go to the National Gallery if art is your thing and say hi to my Caravaggio. Free tours frequently—check out their site. Next door is the fun National Portrait Gallery, also free. Everything from authors, to rock stars, royalty, and a beautiful portrait of David Beckham  Both have cafes and fancier restaurants—including a rooftop one. Expensive for my budget so I eat at Pret a Manger across the street or at St Martin’s for lunch. They often have a free lunchtime concert too. The Chandos pub has lunch upstairs and nice beer as does the Sherlock Holmes on Northumberland Avenue.
• The Eye is worth it, I think, but book ahead. For views I’d skip the Shard and book ahead at the Skygarden. They have a normal priced coffee shop in the morning and it’s got a nice vibe in the evening for cocktails. But you have to book. It’s near the Bank of England, and the morning rush hour in Bank station is my idea of hell. But I think you’re staying close by? Walk over. It’s also close to Leadenhall Market—Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.
• It’s probably worth watching the Changing of the Guard once at Buckingham Palace. Watch your wallets etc in those crowded spots and on the tube. I have never had a problem, but summer is full of tourists and offers more chances for pickpockets.
• I love the Southbank—the Globe Theatre (tours!), the National Theater—heaven—and they all have food available. Sit outside, walk, have a beer. I also like the George—from the book Shakespeare’s Local. It’s not far from Borough Market and Southwark Bridge. Despite the recent tragedy, I’d still go to Borough Market. It’s fun.
• The British Museum and all those Museums. They can be overwhelming. Go to the tours at the British Museum. My favorite wine place is just around the corner.
• The Green Spaces—London is justifiably proud of its parks. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are lovely. I also like Regents Park and you can walk along the canals.
• I like Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms, but we are history geeks. I spent two years at the imperial War Museum and they’ve done an excellent job remodeling it. Good-ish café there too and Lambeth is different.
• Do go to the Museum of London in the Barbican. Free and very interesting.
• I like London Walks company for guided walks, or just buy a book on walks. Also good wlaking podcasts.
• I know this is strange, but I love St Pancras station. Good bookstore and good architecture. It’s just atmospheric. I also like Lambs Conduit—good places to eat and my favorite feminist bookstore.
• For more out of the way things, I’d recommend Greenwich or Hampstead for Sunday lunch. When I win the lottery, that’s my new home.
Breakfast where you live. Take advantage of your own tea and coffee. Lunch can be economically done with the supermarket takeaways. There are great options at all the central grocery stores. I like Waitrose (too expensive though) and dream of the M and S bean salad. All of them have sandwiches, wraps, salads, fruit, crisps, to take away. And do take away from Eat, Pret, and all those places saving yourself the steep 18-20% VAT and eating in the park.
I’m not a fancy eater, especially in London, but do have favorite pubs out aways or off the beaten tourist track. Non-touristy pubs have the best food options. Especially ones with outside seating. Or eat at the theater cafeterias. There are lots of good dinner places by Charlotte Street off Tottenham Court Road. Don’t eat Mexican, just don’t.
This is a big restaurant area: http://www.stchristophersplace.com/

Not sure what else you’re particularly interested in. We do lots of history and literary things, but happy to help in any way I can.

11 Responses to “Random London Tips for Monkey Mama”

  1. My English Castle Says:

    I forgot shopping! Harrod's Food hall is for tourists as is most of Harrod's. But maybe worth seeing. I like Fortnum and Mason's better, and really like Liberty and street markets. Liberty is off Regent Street and you can buy the boys something at Hamleys. All of that is expensive. People like Notting Hill market, but I like Bermondsey better. I also like Columbia Market on Sundays to watch the posh folks brunch.

  2. Trying to get ahead Says:

    DH and I were just in London a couple of weeks ago for the first time and we LOVED it! It was the day after the tragedy in Manchester. We saw the Queen departing from Buckingham Palace on her way to Manchester (totally a stroke of good luck because we were going to see the changing of the guard)
    We definitely want to go back again!

  3. monkeymama Says:

    THANK YOU!!! Big Grin

  4. rob62521 Says:

    Wow, you are amazing to share these things!

  5. CB in the City Says:

    Well, this post is a keeper!

  6. starfishy Says:

    great post! this is reminding me that i haven't been to london since 1987...that's crazy. i love that city! although, i think like nyc, it has changed dramatically since the 80s. but, the historical pieces remain the same. Smile

  7. creditcardfree Says:

    My daughter will be in London two days. The only thing I know she will see for sure is the Imperial War Museum and Churchill's War Rooms. She will also do a walking tour. It's all handled by the travel agency, and the theme for her entire Europe trip is WWII. After two days in London, she heads to Portsmouth so the can take a ferry across the English Channel to Normandy.

    I will have to come back to this post after she returns and see if she hit anything you mentioned.

  8. debtfreeme Says:

    I must remember this for my trip!

  9. My English Castle Says:

    CCF, We did the overnight ferry from Portsmouth (right across the Solent from my DH's home town) to Normandy last year. It was fabulous. The IWM is very interesting. The WWI rooms are great, and the Holocaust exhibits are amazing. I think she'll like the cabinet War Rooms. Our guide in Normandy last year--we splurged on an individually guided tour--suggested we watch "The Longest Day" before the tour started. It did help us understand the geography.

  10. VS_ozgirl Says:

    We booked The Eye with fast-track through the queue - I think it was around $50 for the two of us but well worth it because the line was really long. We did this through Expedia.

  11. monkeymama Says:

    MEC, I put this comment on your last post, but will also put here for future reference. A tip I can offer in return. Negotiate directly with hotels. We saved 24% on our hotel just because we sent an e-mail asking if they could match a third party discount. (They could not match the lower/scammy price, but I'd much rather book directly through the hotel. 24% wasn't bad!). We had e-mailed a few hotels and they all offered substantial discounts when we inquired.

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