Dear friends, I am back after some hiatus, where you find TSR back in that hectic hub of Londres/Londinium/the “big smoke”.
Whatever you choose to call this hubub of city delights, it has something to offer even the choosiest connoisseur.
Think you’ve “been there, done that, got the t-shirt?” Well, TSR is here to tell you that there’s always a fresh piece of finely pressed cotton ready to be tried on – and what better place than the greatest city on Earth (this, TSR understands, is subject to interpretation) to find such new fashion?
TSR is no born and bred pie-and-liquor Londoner, but she has lived here on and off since 2009 – from the East End, to the North and now the West. TSR can not profess to having lived in South London, but having her roots north of the M25, stepping south of the river would be a step too far from her heritage.
Nevertheless, she has done her fair share of exploration within and beyond its Roman walls. And one has learned, to be bored of London is an impossibility indeed.
So without further ado, let’s take a step in well-worn London shoes and explore the depths of this sprawling urban space for adventures off the beaten path.
Look beyond your usual Hyde Park, Kensington fair. There are 3,000 parks in London, covering almost 18% of the city.
Within TSR’s new abode of Ealing, there is Walpole Park, which is currently adorned in spring blossom trees and pups aplenty. It may not be your usual convenient central London spot, but it is worth venturing out into these local, residential areas for a flavour of the distinct communities in London.
If you’re a local to the city, get on the train and explore parks beyond the usual spitting distance. Little gems can also be found closer to home than you realise. Near its famous big sister Hampstead Heath, for instance, lies Golders Hill Park with its landscaped park and free zoo. Light on the pocket and the crowds.
Fill the belly
When the weather is sour, a park might be far from your thoughts. So turn to the indoors instead and be led by your belly.
London is an eclectic smorgasbord of culinary exploration with far too many to list here. Step out of the usual haunts (and the overpriced plague that is Leicester Square) because there is always somewhere new to try.
Street food is now aplenty in the capital too if you wish to dine al fresco – or find a farmers market and take your wicker basket to stock up on goodies a little different from your local Tesco. You will find them spread throughout London beyond the usual hot spots.
Grow your brain
A venture to the V&A jewellery section on a Saturday afternoon may have you feeling like a sardine in a very tightly packed tin. While TSR highly recommends this closet of fine jewels and many a woman’s best friend, during tourist season you are best placed staying well away.
Tucked into a quiet corner of Greenwich sits the Fan Museum. This little but no less intriguing museum holds a delightful collection of fans throughout the ages. You may not be a fan of fans now, but look beyond your preconceptions and you’ll be surprised.
Sir John Soane’s Museum is not typically listed on the major museum hotspots, but is all the better for it. Firstly, it is as free as the air we breathe. Second, it is stuffed full of weird and wonderful curiosities which Sir John collected over his lifetime.
The Cartoon Museum, the Museum of Brands and the Freud Museum are just three other little-known museums that are worth a peak.
Stretch your pencils
Instead of jumping on the Tube, when taking a lazy day – walk it instead. Look up, down and turnaround. It is far more interesting to explore the streets than the armpit of a fellow Tube traveller.
Whether you’re a tourist or not, taking a guided tour can also give you a whole new perspective on this vast metropolis. TSR is not talking here of the standard Harry Potter or Jack the Ripper jaunts (which although fun, are one a penny). Take a Secret Walking Tour to discover those bits of London you never knew existed. London Walks provides a varied pick-n-mix assortment of walking tour treats too – such as its offering in little-known (to TSR) Rotherhithe Village.
Wet the whistle
It wouldn’t be London without a little waterhole to quench the thirst and there are plenty to supply that need. But if you’re looking for something different, you’ll need to tickle your tastebuds beyond the usual spots.
You have probably heard of J.M.W. Turner, but did you know he owned a pub in the East End? Turner’s Old Star still exists and is as old-school and British as it gets. Ideal for a pint and a genteel conversation on the merits of The Fighting Temeraire.
If you require a harder tipple of the cocktail persuasion and a jazzier conversation, then London has those kind of joints too – and hidden ones at that.
Don a flapper dress or your tweed deer stalker hat and investigate the hidden speakeasies and cocktail bars of London town, from The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, to Evans & Peel Detective Agency and The Gibson.
If you’re still not sated after your fill of fusion food, intellectual education and free-to-view kookaburras, there is sure to be a new event or two in London.
Time Out is a reliable weekly updated guide as to what weird and wonderful events are on offer. Highlights to come, as of the time of writing, include a canal boat pageant in Little Venice, an Eid festival in Trafalgar Square and an “insect art” exhibition.
If nothing floats your boat there, dear readers, nothing will.
TSR hopes you enjoyed this little bit of London enlightenment. Do enjoy gracing these places with your presence. Until next time…