5 Things to Do in London that Don’t Involve Wedding Cake
With the world gearing up for Friday’s Royal Wedding, “London” is the name on everyone’s lips. But even if you don’t dream of wedding cakes and yards of tulle, you can still find plenty to do in England’s worldly capital.
1. Take time out for afternoon tea.
Today’s Londoners don’t usually have time for leisurely tea breaks–they’re more likely to settle for a quick cup between emails–but that hasn’t stopped the tradition of afternoon tea from thriving. Stop in to one of the city’s many tea houses for “cream tea”, a small meal consisting of fresh-brewed tea, scones, clotted cream, and jam. Or, if you prefer something savory, opt for cucumber sandwiches and smoked salmon with your cuppa.
2. Hone your crowd navigation skills at Piccadilly Circus.
“Circus” here isn’t meant in the Big Top way, but the proliferation of neon signage, street performers, and eager tourists can make Piccadilly feel a bit like a side show. To be fair, the circle has more than earned its popularity. Not only is it nested in the center of London, but it’s also full of fantastic bars, shops, and theaters. Be sure to pay a visit to the winged Anteros statue while you’re here. It’s a London landmark.
3. Class things up in Covent Garden.
Remember Eliza Doolittle? In the early 1900s, Covent Garden is where she would have stood selling her flowers. Today, it’s the perfect place to play out your own Pygmalion story, with hip boutiques, lively restaurants, and some of London’s most luxurious hotels. On sunny days, you can also enjoy a walk along the Thames River, an inspiration to countless British creatives.
4. Catch the changing of the guard.
Before you call it cliché, take a moment to appreciate the guardsmen. Not only have they developed a superhuman resistance to the camera flash, but they can wear a bearskin (that fuzzy black hat) in summer and still manage to look cool. Be sure to be punctual–the guard change takes place at 11:30am and lasts about 45 minutes. As a neat side note, you can tell whether the Queen is home or not by counting the guards. When she’s away, their numbers drop from four to two.
5. Browse the book shops in Bloomsbury.
London’s academic center is, perhaps unsurprisingly, also a great place to go book shopping. Dig through shelves of used tomes to find elusive first editions, get books fresh off the press from publishing house shops, or find something for the kids at a colorful children’s store. Bloomsbury has also been the stomping grounds for several famous writers, including Virginia Woolf.
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My name: Kate Beall
How I earn my keep: Writing for Travelocity.
Best meal I've ever had: There are three: the mofongo at Jimmy'z Kitchen in South Beach, the lomito completo at Fuente Alemana in Santiago, and (for the sheer novelty factor) the cuy chactado in Arequipa, Peru.
First thing I do in a new place: Hit the shower. Anything more than an hour in transit gets me fantasizing about soap.
View that took my breath away: Seeing the endless stretch of the Sierras as I flew in to Reno/Tahoe for the first time. In the winter, it's an aching field of white all the way to the horizon, like a world wiped clean. Looking out at it gives you this unmatched feeling of eternity.
Most challenging travel moment: Sharing a pull-out couch in a cramped New York apartment. The heat wave of 2010 was in full, humid swing and the air conditioning was D.O.A. There was nothing to do but soak your clothes in the sink and hope to pass out before they dried. ...then wake up in an hour and do it all again.
Favorite way to get around: On foot. I'm still working on the motorcycle license.