Originally posted at HarsH ReaLiTY blog.
Welcome to my e-pamphlet on London (Yay, Opinionated Man’s helping me promote my e-pamplet!). It’s free if you read it today, otherwise tomorrow it goes on sale at $5M a copy.
Essential London – Good bits and Annoyances, by Don Charisma
It’s like a tourist guide with the crap taken out !
This is not a tourist guide, you can find hundreds of those elsewhere, buy one or read online. This is what I LIKE about London, and places and things I like to do and more of an every-man (or woman) guide. Obviously things that I think are crap get mentioned too.
Pros & Cons
Pros – London has a rich variety of culture, lots and lots of things to do and see. Fish & Chips. Greenwich. Used to be well paid jobs, but not so much these days, but still fairly affluent. It’s a fairly safe city, maybe because almost everywhere has CCTV cameras.
Cons – It’s full of English people who are, sadly, miserable and boring, opinionated and quite bigoted. It’s expensive. And generally the weather is often cold, wet and dreary, which is why they are miserable. And as prudism is a national obsession, this is why they are bored.
London is the Capital city of England, Britain or whatever you want to call it. The Queen has a big house there called Buckingham Palace (yawns). Buck Pal is the number one tourist attraction in London (yawns again!). If you want to be impressed by a big house behind some gates, then go visit. My advice don’t bother, go to Green Park or St James Park, a much more rewarding experience, feed the ducks.
A small part of London is called “the square mile” the original, old school London, like from back when people made their own shoes and men lived longer than women. It’s not called the square mile because it’s square in shape, but the area covered I’m guessing is the same as one mile long by one mile wide. When people talk about “THE CITY” this is what they are talking about. It’s also where the main financial district is.
Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs is the “new city”, and my affectionate nickname is CANNERY WHARF, because that’s probably what they used to do there when all the stuff was unloaded from ships, back when the Isle of Dogs was the inport/export interface in/out of London.
London has DRAGONS (yay OM will be pleased !), they were originally put there as a kind of guardians of the city and to mark the city boundary (the square mile as mentioned earlier). I haven’t been able to fathom just how many of the original ones are still there and how many are copies, or indeed how many there are. So, if you’re interested, then check wikipedia and emminlondon and see if you can figure it out.
Eating out I don’t do as much as I used to owing to poor cashflow situation, partly due to the aforementioned lack of well paid jobs in London. A visit back to London for me, I always get some Fish & Chips. It’s really very hard to find good Fish & Chips, sometimes the potatoes are tasteless, sometimes the oil hasn’t been changed recently and so on. In fact I’ve generally often had better Fish & Chips overseas.
Fish & Chips
My current home is in Greenwich, and the Fish & Chips there are not up to par. I’d recommend a trip to Deptford nearby and there’s a Fish & Chip takeaway on Deptford High Street (near the Creek Road end) that does pretty decent Fish & Chip for around £5 ($7.50 ?). Only other place I’d recommend is Harry Ramsden in Leister Sqaure and that’ll be around £20 ($30 ?) for the same meal.
British cuisine is not world renowned, why, because it’s crap, tasteless overcooked mush. You might want to investigate a Sunday roast if you’re a carnivore, lot of people seem to love it, me I’m almost-vegetarian so I don’t partake.
If you visit London then you MUST eat an Indian curry, and the place to go for this is Brick Lane. There are a whole range of Indian places to eat on that street, great food. Also there are some cool places to go out for party and drinks on or off of Brick Lane. Shoreditch and Hoxton Square are close by and there are many bars and clubs there which are fairly cool places to go out. People tend to be generally reasonably friendly and down to earth, reasonably “real” and “authentic”.
Another place to go for a Vegetarian curry would be Drummond Street near Euston station. There are maybe 4 or 5 southern Indian restaurants there, that do some amazing incredibly filling food. Check out the Veggie Samosas or the Deluxe Masala Doza, you won’t be disappointed.
The West End
The “West End” is a tourist trap, it’s expensive and full of tourists (who knew?). For socialising in bars and clubs in the West End, the people are generally stuck up, snooty and have an overly inflated opinion of themselves. Bottom line generally unfriendly. That said everything is convenient, Leicester Square is right next to Piccadilly Circus which is right next to Soho. There are many cinemas and chain type food places, Burger King, that type of thing, located in a very small area.
Chinatown is just above Leicester Square, and it’s possible to get some pretty alright Chinese food there, not too expensive. Soho is just above that, has some trendy bars and places to eat. Soho is a little gay oriented, but that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of straight people there too. It’s also got a reputation for prostitution, someone told me they operate from doorways with “Model” written above, but can’t comment on that as I haven’t verified for myself. It’s still a cool place to go to, if you’re on your own or inexperienced travellers then you might want to go in the daytime, things get more “interesting” at night.
The “posh”/expensive nightclubs are mostly clustered from Piccadilly Circus then just north along and just above Piccadilly. If you’re looking for friendly place to hang out with real/authentic people, then don’t bother going to any of these places, you’ll be disappointed. As I said before Brick Lane, Shoreditch or Hoxton square are much more enjoyable.
For guys and perhaps some girls, best place to go for strip clubs is Shoreditch High Street. There are a number of bars along that road, Rainbow Bar, The White Horse and the famous Browns at the end. I’ve been to these bars with work colleagues, and occasional girlfriend has come along to see what it’s all about. So whatever floats your boat.
Don’t smile too much in London it’s verging on illegal. People will think you’re abnormal, homeless, stoned, weird or want to have sex with them if you smile at them, so don’t do it. Especially on the underground (tube), best look and body language for the underground is a kind of vacant poker face, that leaves the observer in no doubt that you’d rather be elsewhere or dead.
Chatting Up Girls
Guys, do talk to ladies out and about, but do understand that prudism is rife in UK, and you’ll probably be spending the night on your own. So talk for fun, not for purpose. Shoreditch, Hoxton & Brick Lane tend to be more friendly, whereas the West End expect to get ignored or catty/witchy/bitchy comments in return for your friendliness. I’ve nicknamed it “CONVENT GARDEN”, in respect for the prudes. Don’t take it personally, some people seem to have had their “personality” removed at some point in their lives, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person.
If fact, if you’re a dude travelling on your own, and not tall, good looking, rich or famous, best to plan to be on your own, and I wouldn’t bother making it an extended trip. Quick in and out (so to speak) is better for London, there are many many other places more “fun” than London.
I call them Cock-A-Nese, like Chinese or Japanese, what I mean is Cockneys. These are the working class who generally live in the East-End of London. They are part of the “indigenous” population. The CockANese invented something called Cockney-Rhyming-Slang, it’s said as a kind of crime/underword “code” so that the police didn’t know what they were saying.
For example, one might say “Apples & Pears”, which means “Stairs”. Or “Whistle & Flute” for a man’s “Suit”. Or “Dog & Bone” for “Phone”/Telephone. Or “Battle Cruiser” for “Boozer” (a pub/bar).
Now that’s only half the story, the authentic “Cock-A-Nese” don’t actually say the full rhyme, they just say the first word. So “I’m going up the Apples”, would mean “I’m going up the stairs”. Or “I love that Whistle your wearing today” would mean “I love that suit you’re wearing today”.
Watch a movie like “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” there’s a scene in there which tells exactly what I’m talking about – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu7aj1SCE8k
You’re poor – by bus or walk short distances, get Google maps on your phone and use the journey planner on the web.
You’re average – Tube (Underground) or trains/DLR, personally I still travel by bus a lot, I get a phone signal and I can see the scenery. Buses are best.
You’re well-off – Take black taxis, they are regulated, metered and they are 99.9% honest. Only exception is for long distances, say more than 10 miles, and then find a number for mini-cab and book it with them.
Things to see
Tower Bridge (what some people call London Bridge)
have a look around West End
Look in your tourist guide for others that you fancy.
MUST DO – The Thames clipper is a catamaran boat that acts as a river bus. It’s not the cheapest way to get around, but it’s far more luxurious than most of the other options. Embankment pier to Greenwich used to take me around 40 minutes and cost around £4-5, but it’s money really well spent, a very relaxing comfortable way to travel, almost first class.
Near to Tower Bridge on Tooley street there’s a great Thai restuarant called “Suchard”. Not too expensive. Don’t order the Jungle Curry, when it says “warning this is hot”, they are not joking. Two jugs of water later I could only finish about half of it, and I like hot food. Green curry there is great, authentic.
There are also some restaurants in Shad Thames that are good, you can eat al fresco by the river on a good day. Would suit all price ranges, they have places that do lobsters and others that do pizzas.
A great walk is along the south bank of the river Thames from Tower Bridge all the way as far as Waterloo I think. Highly recommended, I did that walk often when I lived near Tower Bridge. You could use Google maps on your phone to guide you.
Shops – You’re on your own with that, not a big shopper myself, I shop for necessity not for enjoyment. Oxford Street has an plethora of shops, so have a look there. Personally I like Lewisham shopping center because it’s close to my home, has Argos and TK Maxx and some cheapo-shops where I can buy a whole Toblerone for £1.
Budget – Asda or Aldi
Average – Marks & Spencer and Sainsburys
Spend some money – Waitrose do excellent stuff, or if you’re feeling very wealthy you could go to Fortnum & Mason or Harrods, personally I can’t really see the point, but perhaps for the novelty or a special treat.
Waterstones on Piccadilly has like 5 floors of books and there is a cafe/resturant on the top floor, it’s VERY HIGHLY recommended even if you don’t want to buy any books.
In ANY city you need to be alert and paying attention to what’s going on around you. If it doesn’t feel right then get out of there. Generally I’ve been safe and felt safe in London. But there are pick pockets, drug-abusers and criminal element, so look just be aware and a bit street wise. Planning things like not keeping all your money in your wallet, and travelling with a small backpack instead of handbag will help make sure you’re safe.
London is JAM PACKED FULL of CCTV cameras. Personally I feel it’s an invasion of privacy. Upside is that if you stay in busy’ish well lit sensible places then you are generally likely to be very safe.
Police everywhere in the world have a corrupt element, it’s another Harsh Reality. British police and the policing system, even with it’s many flaws which I won’t go into, is fairly decent and they are usually helpful if you get a major problem.
I don’t go in for art galleries and museums much, I get bored quickly looking at “stuff”, same with the shopping. Some might be interested in Tate Modern on the southbank or the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square, both are free if I recall correctly. “The” museums are located in Kensington, The Natural History, The Science and The Victoria & Albert. Kids would love Nat His and Sci, V&A is more for adults. You have to be in the mood for looking at a lot of “stuff” to go to a museum, if that suits then “stuff” yourself silly.
You should definitely visit Neal’s yard. It’s tucked away in Covent Garden and they have a great brazilian-vegetarian cafe/restuarant there. Also a great cheap hairdresser (men and women) called Hair-By-Fairy, VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
My favourite place
My favourite place is Greenwich park. It’s the largest of the “Royal Parks” in London and borders onto Blackheath another large green space. The park is set on a hill, and it has different gardens and areas. My favourite walk is around the whole of the outskirts, maybe a hour walk. I have a favourite spot on the hill, where you can get a panoramic view accross London. Also set on the hill is the Greenwich observatory.
Greenwich is steeped in history, a lot of maritime stuff, many things to see and do there. There’s restaurants and some cool bars.
If you visited London and didn’t do anything else, then go to Greenwich. IN FACT GO TO GREENWICH
I do sometimes have spare room in Greenwich on a medium term basis (min 6 months) if you’re looking for somewhere to stay.
Ok, so that’s it, my little bundle of pleasures and annoyances about London. Obviously there is some humour here too, so don’t take it all too seriously and figure out for yourself what you want to do on your own visit.
By Don Charisma