London: Off the Beaten Path

A vesper martini in the glow of a lit fireplace.
A vesper martini at Dukes Hotel.

A trip to London requires one to stop by certain destinations, like changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace or seeing the crown jewels at the Tower of London. But, after you have seen them once, then what do you do?

The great thing about London is there is always so much to see and experience. Repeats aren’t necessary unless you want to revisit your favorite places, like the crown jewels. I really think I have seen them four times. They amaze me every time I see them.

On my latest trip to London, both me and my travel partner had seen the major sights, so we opted for the off the beaten path tour. Here are some of the hot and not-so-hot spots we went:

A dessert pudding served after the traditional Sunday roast at Roast.
A dessert pudding served after the traditional Sunday roast at Roast.

1. The British are know for enjoying a Sunday roast. We had landed Sunday morning, so we decided to join in the tradition and see what it was all about. We went to a restaurant aptly named Roast, located in Borough Market. It was a great area to walk around; located in a vibrant, eclectic community. The food was delicious. The roast was served with Yorkshire pudding, carrots, cabbage and, what I remember to be, mashed potato cakes.

The Cahoots menu is an newspaper.
The Cahoots menu is a newspaper.

2. Cahoots. So what do the Londoners do with an abandoned tube station? Well, turn it into a prohabition era bar, of course! You go to Kingly Court and look for the sign that reads, “To the train.” The guy there will radio below and see if there is a table for you. Once admitted, you decend a wooden escalator to make it to the station. Look for the full size, retro train car.

A few of the martinis available at Dukes Bar.
A few of the martinis available at Dukes Bar.

3. Martini, shaken not stirred. Ian Fleming is said to have created the famous James Bond line “shaken, not stirred” at the hotel bar at Dukes Hotel. Once you make it there, there are several martinis to choose from, including the Vesper. It is pretty expensive, but you definitely get your money’s worth. It will put hair on your chest! Be sure to wear long pants and a tucked in shirt. Shorts and t-shirts aren’t allowed in the famous bar.

The waterbus we took from Camden Market to Little Italy.
The waterbus we took from Camden Market to Little Italy.

4. The London Waterbus Company and Camden Market. This is a really fast-paced, busseling market, which is worth seeing. Go hungry though because they have numerous food venders in stalls near the river. Camden Market is where you meet the London Waterbus Company which provides rides from Camden Market to Little Italy. The 50 minute trip takes you along a canal where you see beautiful homes, the zoo (which is also a stop), and houseboats. This was something different that was fun to try and cheap (a one-way adult ticket is £8.50).

Can you name the James Bond movie which featured this car?
Can you name the James Bond movie which featured this car?

5. The London Film Museum. Check their website to see what they are currently exhibiting. We lucked into the James Bond cars and memorabilia. It was the largest exhibition of Bond cars, ever. Follow this with Dukes Bar, and you will be feeling very 007!

 Afternoon tea at The Savoy.
Afternoon tea at The Savoy.

6. Traditional Afternoon Tea. Every hotel seems to offer an afternoon tea. Check out prices and if reservations are required at their website or through bookatable.com (seems to have more London restaurants) or opentable.com. The menu and servings may seem small, but trust me, you will leave full. Many restaurants offer complimentary refills on sandwiches and scones. Be sure to look to see if there is a dress code, so that you can pack appropriately.

Fortum & Mason offers great ideas for editable souvenirs.
Fortnum & Mason offers great ideas for editable souvenirs.

7.  Shopping.  Whether you want to go to the famed Harrod’s store (be sure to check out the food court area) or maybe purchase tea and macaroons at Fortnum & Mason, there is a store full of delights to interest you.  Markets and auctions, like Portabella Road, are fun places to buy vintage items, including souvenirs.   We enjoyed poking around an Oxfam store (somewhat like our Goodwill stores).  One of my favorites is Paperchase, which always has great paper and desk supplies.  Shopping areas, like Covent Garden, offer a store for everyone, or a gelato for those who would rather rest.

Traditional steak and ale pie with mashed potatoes, and peas at the Stanhope Arms.
Traditional steak and ale pie with mashed potatoes and peas at the Stanhope Arms.

8. Pub. Stop in a pub for dinner and a pint. The names of the pubs are as much fun to read as the food is to eat. We passed the Nag’s Head, Bag O’Nails, and Horse and Room.

Harry Potter's famous 9 3/4 platform at King's Crossing.
Harry Potter’s famous 9 3/4 platform at King’s Cross.

9. Harry Potter’s train platform 9 3/4 and store. At King’s Cross station, you can have your photo made with luggage cart at platform 9 3/4. Or stop in the store for a Harry Potter souvenir.

10. Jack the Ripper tour (or a ghost tour). The Jack the Ripper tour was pretty interesting and cool, especially if you have some younger folks with you who are into gore.  Look online for when and where to meet the tour you choose.  Our tour met at midnight in a tube station.

A very sophisticated sign tells travelers how to exit the station.
A very sophisticated sign tells travelers how to exit the station.

11.  Tour the tube stations.  I have always enjoyed the wall art and tiles work in the tube stations.  Some stations are totally modern and others are pretty retro.  Back in the 90s, one of my favorite photos was from the Baker Street station.  The tiles were the profile of Sherlock with his pipe in his mouth.  A sign affixed to the tile wall said, “No smoking.”  Many stations have art prints featured on their walls.  So, at least you have something interesting to look at while you are waiting on the train.

The site of the Republic of Texas' Embassy.
The site of the Republic of Texas’ Embassy.

And, 12, just for Texans: The Republic of Texas Embassy sign. Yes, being a Texan I had to see it. From 1842-1845 Texas had an embassy in London at Pickering Place in Westminster.  It is just cool to know!

There is so much to do in and around London.  Maybe a picnic in a lovely park would make a perfect day.  Or a day trip outside of London to Brighton, Eton, or Canterbury would work in your schedule.  Where does the road less travelled lead you in London?

While at Baker Street, why not tour the Sherlock Holmes Museum?
While at Baker Street, why not tour the Sherlock Holmes Museum?

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