Monday, 15 March 2010
I dislike London. I know it's unpatriotic, I know that London is as much a cosmopolitan centre of culture as, say, New York or Paris, but let's face it: it's just not New York or Paris. However, with the migration of several friends to our revered capital city in recent years, it has become more of a necessity to grudgingly venture south of Birmingham and see what everyone is raving about.
This weekend my husband and I stayed with friends in Leytonstone, a short Tube trip from Euston. Determined not to let my aforementioned prejudices affect husband's first trip, I gritted my teeth and plunged (semi) wholeheartedly into all the touristy goodness that London has to offer.
We started off well, although untraditionally, at the Manolo Blahnik shop in Chelsea - well, if I have to go to London, I may as well get some fabulous shoes out of the trip. Beginning with a 20-minute trek from South Kensington Tube station (aided in large part by Google Maps on husband's new HTC Hero), we left exhilarated if with significantly lighter pockets, smugly carrying a large MB bag around for the rest of the day, to the annoyance of fellow Tube passengers.
Next on the agenda was the London Eye (Tube stop: Waterloo). Superb views, a relaxing and peaceful capsule and glasses of Champagne made us feel distinctly VIP, helped along by our personal host who pointed out landmarks and took our photos. The new 4D mini-film experience was also great fun and would particularly appeal to children.
We let husband select the landmarks he'd like to see close-up and headed over the river to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, passing Westminster Abbey before again employing the help of the Hero to navigate to Buckingham Palace. If you're heading in this direction, make time to wander through St James Park and check out the various statues, stream and noisy ducks!
Continuing with our upper-class theme, we just had time to catch the Tube to Knightsbridge for a dash around Harrods, marvelling at the amazing displays of gourmet food and stopping for a spot of people-watching in the various luxury concessions. For a real taste of the high life, give the tacky Harrods Arcade a miss and head for the teas and coffees - Harrods has some unusual and hard-to-find blends at more down-to-earth prices.
On Sunday we woke early(ish) to head into Trafalgar Square (Tube stop: Charing Cross) where we unwittingly wandered into the St Patrick's Day celebration, with live bands and plentiful Guiness. Continuing up to Covent Garden Market for lunch at the unique and intriguing Cafe Chutney, which serves Indian-inspired snacks and light meals.
After depositing husband on the Tube to Euston to pick up the train home, we headed to Westfield London for a spot of shopping, which had the immediate effect of making you feel like you were in any other shopping centre, anywhere in the world. Devoid of any interesting culture but full of both high-end and high-street names, Westfield is a shopper's dream but is otherwise not worth the long trip out to Shepherd's Bush.
After all this, I ended up with mildly warm and fuzzy feelings about London, which were not completely quashed by my rush-hour Tube trip this morning. There might be some hope for me and London after all.