My blueprint to be a tourist in my own city.
Since one of my travel resolutions for 2009 is to be a tourist in my own city and make the most of what London has to offer, I thought I should make a list of things to do. I’ve been here four and a half years and I’ve seen a lot of the city already so this won’t necessarily include things that would make the top of a tourist hit-list such as visiting the Tower of London. In no particular order, it’s a list of 10 things I’m yet to do in London and want to, or haven’t done for a while and would like to do again. The plan is that this will serve as a blueprint for how to spend my weekends over the next few months – and of course I’ll write about it on the blog. As an added challenge I’m going to try to keep it under £150 for all 10 activities.
1. Go ice-skating at Somerset House
London has several seasonal outdoor ice-skating rinks and my favourite is at Somerset House, just off the Strand. I usually go every year but I’m yet to go this winter and there’s only a few more weeks left before the rinks close for another year. I bought a fabulous pair of 1960s red leather skates when I was in Brooklyn last year and I need to take them out for a whirl. Cost = £11.50 including cloak room.
2. Go back to the National Gallery
I’ve been to the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square but I haven’t been through all the rooms. It’s odd how I’ve been to the Louvre in Paris and the Prado in Madrid and the Met in New York and I haven’t actually completed the National Gallery. I love art so it’s not a chore – I think I’ve just been complacent because I can go any time. Cost = free.
3. Visit the Museum of Childhood
I’ve been meaning to go to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green for a while and I’m yet to do so. No more excuses – it’s just up the road from me now that I live in the East End and it looks like great fun! Cost = free.
4. Visit Hampton Court Palace
I love Tudor history but I’m yet to go to Hampton Court Palace. It’s even got a maze for goodness’ sake! Enough already … it’s time to put this to rights and plan a day trip. I really should do this in summer so I can get the riverboat along the Thames but waiting another half a year is a little too much like procrastination. I’ll settle for the train. However, Henry VIII’s state apartments are closed for renovation in January and February so I might plan this for early March. Cost = £14 for entry, plus £6.50 for the train.
5. Go clubbing
London is famous for its night-clubs and I’m still young enough for the occasional big night out. I was never truly into the nightclub scene when was younger and I’m still not but once in a while is fun. New Year’s Eve reminded me how much I enjoy dancing. Ultimately it’s all about the people so I would want to round up half a dozen good friends and then hit some of the famous night spots. Cost = £50 including entry, drinks and half a cab home.
6. Go to Madame Tussauds
It’s cheesy and it’s a tourist trap and I would urge any visitor to London to avoid the queues and save their money. And yet, I still want to go and see the wax works at Madame Tussauds. I’ve heard about this place since I was tiny, after all. This is not one to do with my fiancé – I want to go with a friend with a similar sense of humour and take silly photos. Cost = £22.50 with online booking.
7. Go to an international politics lecture at the London School of Economics
I’ll spare you the write-up since it’s only marginally to do with travel but I have a Masters degree in International Relations so I find this stuff interesting. So does Helen from one of my favourite food blogs, World Food Guide, (both find it interesting and have a Masters) so we’ve made plans to meet up and attend one of the LSE’s public lectures. Cost = free.
8. Have high tea at Yauatcha
Afternoon tea is a tradition in England. High tea in a grand hotel consists of assorted fancy sandwiches cut into quarters with the crusts cut off for ladylike nibbling, scones with jam and cream, petite fours (small cakes and slices) and copious amounts of tea. In 2004, our first year in London, my birthday treat was high tea at Claridge’s. I chose it over the Ritz because the art deco aesthetic of Claridge’s appealed to me than the pink splendour of the Ritz or any of the other grand London hotels. At £28 per person (at the time) it was expensive but good value for the oh-so-decadent feeling of luxury and the food was plentiful and quite wonderful. The tea menu had at least a dozen pages of different teas and the attentive waiters never let your teacup get empty.
High tea at Yauatcha promises to be an entirely different experience. Yauatcha is part Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant, part tea house and part French patisserie. They make quite the most heavenly (and most expensive) macaroons I’ve ever tasted. And apparently they serve high tea but with dim sum! I have to go. Cost = £30.
9. Make a photography excursion to Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery is apparently a lovely, atmospheric old cemetery and it’s also the resting place of Karl Marx. I have never been but I actually really enjoy old cemeteries in foreign cities, such as Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris or Green-Wood Cemetery in New York so I’m sure I’d get a lot out of Highgate. I’d like to either go on my own or with a fellow photography enthusiast and mess about with my SLR. Cost = £8 if I visit both East Cemetery (£3) and West Cemetery (£5).
10. See an opera at the Royal Opera House
I’ve seen a ballet at the Royal Opera House but I’ve never seen an opera there. It’s not called the Royal Ballet House so I feel I should see the art form that it takes its name from. Cost = variable (more research needed). But it’s bound to be a LOT more than £7.50 so yup, I think I just blew the budget!