By Lynn Strough
With four days between house sits in England, leaving Corsham to head down to Hove, the excitement of London lies in the middle, and what’s not to love about London?
Except possibly the price tag, but London doesn’t have to break the bank. True, hotels are off-the-hook expensive, and with no appropriate couch-surfing to be found, I reverted to my old standby, Airbnb. Out of the city center, near the Royal Borough 0f Kensington and Chelsea, I found a room in a townhouse flat with a young couple from Bulgaria and their toddler son, a welcome temporary home.
There’s something special about London, the mood, the atmosphere, the lost-back-in-time feeling. Surrounded by historic buildings, bright red double-decker buses, and those entertaining British accents, there are tons of treasures to explore, and even though I’ve been here before, there’s much I still missed, like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and electric lights of Piccadilly Circus.
Wander along the river and you’ll see iconic sights like the London eye and Big Ben, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Interspersed with the old, you’ll see plenty that’s new, especially cutting-edge architecture, like the famous London Shard.
Don’t come expecting sunshine and blue skies, as London is typically gray and foggy, but that just lends to the atmosphere. If rain tumbles down and you seek drier pursuits, there are plenty of options, like theatre. A friend treated me to a ticket to see “Kinky Boots,” a hilarious, inspiring musical.
Nearby Covent Garden offers plenty of shopping and dining under cover. Museums abound, and most are free! You can while away hours at the chock-full Victoria and Albert, where Chihuly glass mingles with classic sculpture, and clothing runs the gambit from medieval and renaissance to rainbow psychedelic.
Halls and walls are hung with wrought iron and paintings and tapestries and you’ll find everything from furniture, to china, to original costumes from The Lion King. The Tate Modern offers contemporary art for your contemplation while the National Gallery is classic. And Saatchi is just plain out there.
My favorite part of London, though, are all the different neighborhoods. Brick Lane is crammed with antique shops and bookstores galore and the best food court in the world! In fact, it includes cuisine from just about everywhere — Cuban, Caribbean, Spanish, Turkish, and even Transylvanian. How in the world does one decide? Ultimately, I opted for a plate full of vegetarian delights from Ethiopia. Don’t forget to save room for dessert!
Brick Lane is also like an outdoor art gallery, with an eclectic, creative blend of entertaining graffiti.
My most beautiful day in London was spent cruising the Columbia Flower Market, surrounded by scents of thousands of blossoms, crammed between every color and kind of flower you can think of — hydrangeas and pansies, snapdragons, tulips and orchids. It’s a gardener’s dream on steroids! People pack the narrow road, while hawkers call out their wares, “Who likes a big lily?!”
As for getting around, it’s easy — everyone of course speaks English. And you’ve several choices of taxi, or bus, or underground tube, or even renting a bicycle, as well as my favorite, by foot — you see so much more when you’re walking.
A great way to end your day in London is with a snack and a drink in the oldest pub and don’t forget London rules for safety: Please, mind the gap!
Lynn is a 50+ free spirit whose incarnations in this life have included graphic designer, children’s book author and illustrator, public speaker, teacher, fine art painter, wine educator in the Napa Valley, and world traveler. Through current circumstances, she has found herself single, without a job or a home, and poised for a great adventure.
“You could consider me homeless and unemployed, but I prefer nomad and self-employed, as I pack up my skills and head off with my small backpack and even smaller savings to circumnavigate the globe (or at least go until the money runs out). Get ready to tag along for the ride…starting now!”
Reprinted with permission