We’ve just completed another tour of duty, I mean, trip to the U.K. to see family, and managed to squeeze in a couple of days in London. This trip, we opted to stay in the heart of Central London—where few locals live—but it meant we could make the most of our limited time and walk to most places. We stayed at the St Martin’s Lane Hotel—I’ve been there a few times now, and have enjoyed it each time.
Here are a few things that I recommend putting on your list:
1. Grab Dim Sum for lunch in Chinatown
Although Chinese New Year was a few weeks ago, Chinatown was still looking festive and adorned with red lanterns and Chinese dragons and lions climbing up the walls. I wish I had a good recommendation to give you for dim sum, but we didn’t have time to do much research and just ducked into the nearest one. It was fine, but nothing to write home about. If you want to do things properly, then only eat dim sum at lunchtime. You may want to check out one of the fragrant Chinese bakeries for a sweet bite afterwards.
2. Go to see The Ferryman
Thankfully, it has been 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement which brought peace to Northern Ireland. It was a pure coincidence that we went to see the acclaimed play, “The Ferryman,” at the Gielgud Theatre in the West End, on this historic anniversary.
The play is fast-paced, boasts an amazing cast of adults, children and even animals, and offers a glimpse into the way the Troubles rent families asunder and created divisions that took years to heal. It is incredibly well done, and 20 years ago it would have been unimaginable that a play such as this would be produced in the West End. It is not to be missed, as they say in the movies.
3. Get Yourself An Edgy London Haircut
London has long-been one of the trend-setting cities of the world when it comes to hair fashion. You only have to check out photography from the 1960s and swinging London. If you find your barnet in need of a trim, then check out Matthew David Bespoke Hairdressing on Duke Street.
4. Have afternoon high tea at Fortnum and Mason’s
While tea at the Ritz maybe a little more famous, afternoon tea at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum and Mason’s on Piccadilly is just as genteel, and a hair more affordable at 50 pounds per head. Let’s be clear, this will be just about the most expensive tea, finger sandwiches and cake you’ll ever eat, but it’s a good thing to check off your bucket list.
What’s more, the salon was opened by the Queen. Apparently she’ll turn up for the opening of an envelope. I jest.
I took Monkey and Granny and we each ordered our own separate tea—I opted for the gluten-free version. Frankly, two “teas” between the three of us would have been more than enough. Tooth-achingly sweet and scrumptious, we vowed off sugar for a month by the time we were done.
5. Boogie on down at the ABBA Exhibit at the Southbank Centre
I have no idea whether ABBA, the Swedish pop sensation, made it big in the USA, but for me growing up in the UK, their rocket ship to success was hard to miss in the 1980s. And we carried on dancing to their music—in a strictly ironic way, of course—well into the 1990s.
The ABBA: Super Troopers exhibit at the Southbank Centre is pure genius, recreating the period through music, artifacts, room-sets and furniture, but I won’t spoil the surprise. Be prepared to bop and hum your way around. You can even practice your singing in a recording studio booth. Tickets are best booked in advance and are 25 pounds each, and going with at least three of your oldest, dearest girlfriends is an absolute must. There are no photos. #whatgoesontourstaysontour