An old acquaintance has secured Kate Bush tickets (first of 22 shows — which all sold out in 15 minutes — is tomorrow), one of the more heavily hyped items of late with several pages of bits in yesterday’s Observer and a documentary on BBC4 last Friday. Since she and partner are travelling from Los Angeles, I feel compelled to give some wholly unsolicited tourism options for any down time they have on the trip. Most of these are from the blog, so almost all of them require no extravagant expense (depending on what and how much you decide to eat and drink along the way). Not at all comprehensive, please add your own suggestions for my next trip down the Big Smoke.
Pubs: The map above is my London pub tally through 24 August 2014 and if you click on the picture it should take you to the UK-wide map from which this was gleaned. The pushpins are more accurately located than Google has them but some of the pubs are now gone. If you see one you are likely to want to visit, I have an entry for it on this site now linked to the pushpin on the map
but haven’t bothered to include links on the map ( so you would have to come back here to search for them). Some of my favourites are:
The Bree Louise: great selection of beer and cider near Euston Station
The Lyric is pleasant enough and you can peer out at the former Red Lion where the Communist Manifesto was mostly written.
I owe the Lord Nelson another visit after their hospitality during the London Marathon. Likewise the Rose of Denmark. The night before the race, we were also thoroughly entertained at the Flowers of the Forest.
Ladbroke Grove is the part of West Kensington where the Clash were holed up in the early years and you’ll find the Kensington Park a fabulous watering hole in the neighbourhood. Another pub with a bit of a punk history to it (and great Thai food on the menu) is the World’s End in Camden.
One of the most beautiful pubs I’ve seen in town is the Blackfriar. If you want to go to just one for atmosphere, this is it.
The East End has a few worthy boozers, too. I really like the White Hart with it’s Jack the Ripper connections and proximity to the London Hospital where John Merrick (the Elephant Man) lived out his days. Just up the road you’ll also find the Blind Beggar where Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell (Kray Brothers, Piranha Brothers, and Kemp Brothers fans should make time for a beverage here). Dinsdale.
Cemeteries: These are a particular favourite of mine and Jackie’s and we’ve done the Highgate tour several times. London has a bunch of good ones sprinkled around, and you could do worse than to stumble upon the Bunhill Fields (wiki here) and leave a penny at Blake’s site for the ferryman. Highgate East is free and very good, but Highgate West requires a tour guide although the hassle is well worth the cheap fee and the advanced planning. Closer into town, Kensal Green is also truly awesome and a good way to kill a few hours.
Farther afield but still in the London confines, the Necropolis Station is worth trying to find. Near the Waterloo Rail Station, this was a dedicated rail stop that shipped 10’s of thousands of small pox corpses out to the suburban cemeteries. Also, if you find yourself at Chelsea Bridge (see the music entry, below), there is another Victorian cemetery nearby we haven’t visited yet but have shortlisted.
Food: Okay, you can probably find more palatable things to eat, but nothing will be more quintessentially London than a bowl of jellied eels soaked in as much chilli vinegar as you can stand…and it comes with a little plate on which to spit the wee bones. Trust me on this one. Go to the Borough Market because if you chicken out there is a ridiculous spread of other food to go for, as fresh as you might ever hope for and reasonably priced (considering the floor show that goes with it).
English food is generally dreadful although I am really fond of blood pudding and fish and chips. If you are from the southeastern U.S., as the catalyst for this note is, you might find yourself more at home dining in the Brixton Market where people know what pimento cheese is and the greens and black-eyed peas are cooked in artery clogging levels of salt pork. Just pick a street stand and start eating; don’t worry, the contact high you get from the pot smoke everywhere will keep you munchy enough to try everything (wear loose clothing for the trip).
Music sites: More than any music site in London I am ashamed of NOT going to is the house where Joe Meek had his weird studio and eventually killed his landlady before committing suicide.
Look out, kid, there are sites I have been to that are pretty good such as Savoy Street in front of the Savoy Chapel where Dylan dropped cards while Subterranean Homesick Blues played in the background. You might also want to pop by number 3 Savile Road, the Apple offices where the last Beatles performance occurred, but under no circumstances should you do the Abbey Road walk of shame (better to just leave some graffiti on the walls outside the studios where, keeping with the Kate Bush theme, Man With the Child in His Eyes was recorded). Also, here’s a Werewolves of London location near the Kensal Green cemetery and not far from Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten’s squat.
Clapham is an easy tube stop and the Clapham Common is a great and very large park to kill an afternoon around. Squeeze fans might go to the Clapham Junction station and get Up the Junction stuck in their heads. It’s not a long hike from there to Chelsea Bridge where you can look out over the Thames toward Battersea Power Station (The Pink Floyd’s Animals should come to mind) and settle into a brilliant Waterloo Sunset. Classical music fans can find Jimi Hendrix’s place (which had previously been Handel’s place) at 23 Brook Street while you can find the scene of one of the more annoying brain worms, Come On Eileen, at Brook Drive on the opposite side of the Thames.
Here are two websites that give pretty good music tour ideas. First, Music Like Dirt has a map if you just want to find something near you. The Shady Old Lady has a much more comprehensive site and a lot of other categories to choose from but you are on your own for mapping.
Dr. Who just started again, and I do try to hit Who sites out here in the provinces. Below, you’ll find a screen shot of the Google Earth map of Dr. Who scene sites in central London taken from http://www.doctorwholocations.net/ (download the file DrWhoLocations.kml to load into G-Earth and maybe a more useful map overlay — I’m using OpenStreetMap for mine).
For movie sites in London, try the map at https://moviemaps.org/cities/4 which, though far from comprehensive it does give you some touristy ideas, and a map.
Other recreation: I do not recommend Boris Bikes except maybe in the Square Mile on the weekends (the City is abandoned by 6pm Friday). They are cheap, sturdy, and fun but you can get yourself killed on them as well.
Depending on your interests overlapping a bit, I would highly recommend hashing in the city. London hashers are a friendly lot, take you to the most interesting pubs around, and if you aren’t careful you might even get a little exercise while trotting around the back alleys and through tunnels and up and down streets you might never otherwise venture. They have a centralised calendar of events here but sometimes it is irregularly updated; I have never been disappointed by a London based hash…here are some of the individual kennels’ pages:
South London HHH (SLASH) … say, ‘hi,’ to Testiculator if you go here or, for that matter, any of the others as he seems to hash a lot.