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  1.  (9873.1)
    Howdy, pardners!

    Last year I opened a thread about me taking a trip to London and asking for suggestions. A helpful thread, to be sure, punctuated by my not actually going to London. Sad face.

    But this time I am, because I have the tickets--the wife and I are going May 30th through June 6th.

    We're going to be staying with some family friends in the Chiswick area of Hounslow (and I have no idea what that means). For sure, we are going to make a day trip to Dorchester (my wife studies Thomas Hardy) and a day trip to Bath most likely. We also hope to hit up a few museums, Westminster, the Globe, and whatever we have time for. So, what I would be most appreciative for from my UK brethren here are some pointers on the following:

    1) general advice on transportation in/around the city, and to Bath/Dorchester/Dorset - the family friends do not have a car

    2) a pub that is 200+ years old and/or a pub that serves Guinness from a hand pump, preferably in Chiswick area or easily reached by public trans yada yada

    3) a good restaurant that I can take these family friends to as thank you - we love fine dining, but hopefully one that won't be more than $100 american per person

    4) any interesting shops, restaurants, cafes, haunts that won't necessarily show up in travel guides and touristy books

    Obviously I can look some of this stuff up myself, but it's always great to get firsthand experience and comments from people I can trust. And any other thoughts on traveling, suggestions, or comments are welcome as well.
  2.  (9873.2)
    On Transportation - you can pick up a free map of the Tube Train subway system, as well as the bus systems, at most stations; but even if they're unavailable, maps of the system are all over the place anyway.

    I would definitely recommend checking out Covent Garden and the London Transport Museum, which are both on the maps but not as well-publicised as the other attractions.

    Oh, and if you or the family are comic readers, definitely have a look at Gosh Comics, which is just down the street from the British Museum. It's the perfect place for comics, I've often found, because it lacks the needy-franchise style of Waterstones or Forbidden Planet. It's just generally a good place to find comic books for anyone who likes 'em.

    While you're in Bath, look up the Bath Costume Museum.

    And if you have a lot of time when you visit the Globe, the Tate Modern is next door. It's got varying degrees of quality in terms of art, but the non-exhibition stuff is solid and whatever's in the Turbine Hall this time around is probably inoffensive.
    • CommentAuthorbadbear
    • CommentTimeMay 17th 2011
     (9873.3)
    Use the transport for london website journeyplanner to see how to get to where you want to go: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/
    Although it won't ever really recommend buses, don't be afraid of them. The information on bus stops is pretty comprehensive (and if you're ever lost then there is often a little map on them too) and you can actually see the city as you pass it by.
    Consider buying an A-Z map book. Lots of central London tube stops are actually really close together and the underground can be a bloody nightmare if the weather is warm.

    Drinking wise I recommend The George Inn (built in the 17th century) in southwark - it's one of the oldest pubs in London and is just opposite borough market which is a very expensive but delicious farmers market and right by the river. Food is pretty good too.
    http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-georgeinn

    My other half says that if you can put up with the posh bankers then try Gordons Wine Bar in embankment, which is the oldest wine bar in London. Apparently it's a bit cave like inside but it is frikkin old.
    http://www.gordonswinebar.com/

    Although having said that there are heaps of nice pubs in chiswick, it's a very leafy and attractive part of London. I haven't been there in years though so I don't have any up to date info for you...

    I second the recommendation for London's southbank (the stretch of the river with the Tate Modern and the Globe on it) because it's my favourite part of london. It's an easy walk up to trafalgar square from there too. Nice at night time.

    I'm going to have a think and see what else I can come up with for you. I've got more in me I just know it...
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeMay 17th 2011
     (9873.4)
    1 - The underground is easy around London. Bath is easy by train. Dorchester - slightly more difficult by train, but do-able. Go to http://www.thetrainline.com and work them both out. They're both do-able in a day. There are more interesting places that are nearer though.

    2 - Take your pick. Guinness doesn't really come from hand pumps like real ale though, if that's what you mean. It's on tap pretty much everywhere though. If you want something that looks old, then The Olde Cheshire Cheese http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ye_Olde_Cheshire_Cheese on Fleet Street is what you're after.

    3 - There are loads, depending on what you want. You may have to book though if you want anything famous.

    4 - Make sure you visit camden market. I'd recommend the Atlantis Bookshop by the British Museum, which is also close to Gosh Comics if you like weirdness.
  3.  (9873.5)
    Guinness in the UK isn't notably any better than anywhereelse unfortunately.
    If you are after proper beer in chiswick, you probably might want to nip into the Fullers brewery and affixed pub.
    • CommentAuthoricelandbob
    • CommentTimeMay 17th 2011
     (9873.6)
    With Hounslow then you are likely to use the Piccadily line which does take you RIGHT into the centre of the west end (Piccadily, Leicester Square, etc). Make sure to get a days travelcard instead of single/return fares as that will cost you a fortune.

    Fro an old pub, you could try the Lamb and Flag or the Nell Gwynne Tavern. which is rather nice....
  4.  (9873.7)
    Dear all:

    All pub suggestions are welcome and much appreciated. I heard from one guy that you could get hand-pumped Guinness, but I could care less because I'm a beer nerd and I am really looking forward to getting a shitload of English beer no matter what--hand pumps are just preferable. To my mind, age and pedigree is a lot more important than looks, and I could care less about dive bars or sketchy areas as long as I'm not challenged to fights by skinheads all night.

    Also really appreciating the tips on transportation and places to look. Keep 'em coming.

    Here's a new question: What about Oxford and/or Cambridge? I've been told they're beautiful to see, but is it really worth it to head out there, even for a half day, to either one? I think I'd like to see at least one because I'm a history buff, but I'm curious about cost and what kind of tours/sightseeing is available.

    Thanks all for the great stuff so far. I think I owe you all a beer (hand-pumped, of course).
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeMay 18th 2011
     (9873.8)
    I'd argue that if you're there more than one day you may as well pick up a pay as you go oyster card and whack 30 quid on it. Still be cheaper than buying a travel card every day.
    • CommentAuthorbadbear
    • CommentTimeMay 18th 2011
     (9873.9)
    Not sure about Oxford/Cambridge. They are both very pretty but if you're looking for day trips closer to London you could consider Hampton Court Palace? If you like a good historical building then that place is ridiculous. I think you can get a river taxi there too, (although I'm not sure where from) which could be lovely if the weather is good. (don't go on a weekend though,the place will be packed.)

    Someone told me that Chiswick house is pretty nice too: http://www.chgt.org.uk/ .

    I would say that national train travel can be very expensive unless you are feeling brave and want to book in advance.
    • CommentAuthorDan Kelly
    • CommentTimeMay 18th 2011
     (9873.10)
    In terms of transport out of London:

    Bath is about 2.5 hours west of London on a Train from Paddington. Oxford is about 1.5 hours west from the same. Cambridge about 45 minutes if you get the fast train from Kings Cross. Dorchester is about 2.5 hours from Waterloo. You'll need the tube to get to the stations.

    Make sure you go to the correct Dorchester. The one that you want is in Dorset, not Oxfordshire.

    Train times can be got from here

    I'd second the idea about an Oyster Card.

    if you want to see Westminster and the Globe then you're better off on foot. Start at Westminster. Cross to the south of the river and turn left. You'll pass The London Eye, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, The Globe, Tate Modern, St Pauls (if you cross the bridge outside the Tate Modern) and Borough Market. If you continue heading East from London Bridge you'll get to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. The walk will be 1.5 hours if you don't stop anywhere, and has enough going on to fill a day...
    • CommentAuthorDan Kelly
    • CommentTimeMay 18th 2011
     (9873.11)
    Oh and working in Camden I'd argue against the Market. It really isn't what it used to be unless you want to pick up some Emo / Nu Metal related tat.
    •  
      CommentAuthortaphead
    • CommentTimeMay 18th 2011 edited
     (9873.12)
    Highlights from my recent trip there:

    Tate Modern. Would you like to see works by Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock and Piet Mondrian for free? I would.

    In case you happen to stumble into Brick Lane and become bombarded by the aroma from the approx. 147 Bengali restaurants on the street, a word of warning: Not all of them are actually good. I managed to pick a place that served a rather underwhelming sweet and sour tomato sauce as a masala. Another night I tried a more dingy looking spot on the same street, and it was marvelous.

    Still on Brick Lane, however, Beigel's Bakery at the top of the street had the best bagels I've had outside New York. I had the lox, but the salt beef looked lovely, too.

    On pubs, I really dug a place called Indo on Whitechapel Road, right opposite the East London Mosque. Nice beers, good music, and pizzas for when you get peckish. The Chandos was also wonderful, and right near Trafalgar Square. I think a pint of bitter and a nice bangers & mash set me back 8 pounds or something, so not exactly pricey, either.

    (BITE was also recommended to me as a pub guide.)

    And if you're into coffee, a place called 26 (or more properly Tapped & Packed) at 26 Rathbone Place has served me the finest coffee I've ever had. It was ridiculous, I think my first sip of cappuccino made TIME. STOP.

    Because I am stupid, I made the mistake of not going down to Brixton before my last day in London. I'm interested in music, food and subcultures, why on earth would I want to go there? Oh right. On my next trip, that's where I'm headed on the first day.

    (Note: Brixton and Whitechapel can be a bit dodgy. I never felt unsafe there, but YMMV.)

    If Nigredo is reading this, he showed me a couple of lovely odd little places in Notting Hill, too, but I neglected to note the names and addresses. Boo.

    ETA: Oh right, he mentions the Churchill Arms on the original thread. Nice pub, and the Thai restaurant in the back is lovely random thing. Gooood food.
    •  
      CommentAuthortaphead
    • CommentTimeMay 18th 2011
     (9873.13)
    On transportation in London: The tube is a very very good thing, as distances tend to be not even long, but rather unreal. The city felt to me like a group of translunar colonies, connected to each other with a teleportation system. Definitely get an Oyster card, you'll save a fair bit of money with that one if you get around much at all.

    It should be noted that the tube stops running fairly early, so if you decide to stay at a pub til late, you'll be looking at a bus ride (or an insanely expensive cab fare). It's probably a good idea to note which bus routes go near your accomodation, and prepare for a transfer at some point. Also, there's no free transfer time on the tickets (which I found a bit odd, but nevermind) so two trips will cost you two tickets.
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeMay 18th 2011
     (9873.14)
    In recent years I've started piecing together the various bits of London 'above ground' that I know to the point where I can now walk from Waterloo (where I get in from Guildford) to most of the usual places I go to (Forbidden Planet, Euston, King's Cross, Gosh comics...)

    And you do start doing that, it's often funny how much longer the tube can take to get to places than walking.

    But you won't ever get too lost if you stick to the underground for getting about.
    • CommentAuthorbadbear
    • CommentTimeMay 18th 2011
     (9873.15)
    Taphead said Brick Lane and I would add to that Spitalfields Market if you happen to be in the area on the right day. It's better than Camden.

    I'm wierdly obsessed with this thread now. Sorry for the repeat visits...
  5.  (9873.16)
    The tube is a very very good thing, as distances tend to be not even long, but rather unreal. The city felt to me like a group of translunar colonies, connected to each other with a teleportation system.

    I don't even have a mental image of how London's streets are laid out. I just have a rough image of the tube map in my head so I can get from one moon village to the next.

    Someone has already mentioned Gosh Comics being across the road from the British Museum. Make sure you visit the British Museum. It's full of all the treasures we plundered from around the world. Also when I was there last I had the best ham and cheese sandwich I've ever tasted.

    There is also an exhibition about Science Fiction on at the British Library which is just down the road from St. Pancras train station. (Like the British Museum the station is worth wandering into just to see the architecture.)
  6.  (9873.17)
    @badbear: you're obsessed? I'll be lucky to get to the third day without grabbing locals and screaming about rashers and a proper pint.

    @Will: haha. I will certainly visit the British Museum. I minored in Viking and Norman history so this trip will truly be a battle of wills between me, who wants to see all the boring kings-and-knights history, and my wife, who wants to see Dickens's and Hardy's houses and probably fuck their bones or something.

    @Dan, Flabyo et al: I am daring enough to hoof it, especially to Dan's suggestion about the Westminster-to-Tower of London trip, but I thank all for the repeated Oyster card recs. Also, thanks a lot for mentioning they tend to stop running early-ish.

    @taphead: I am definitely into coffee and will check that place out.

    I've heard that eating there can get expensive real fucking quick. While I will have a fair amount of spending money, I'll always be paying for two and I care a lot more about spending said money on beer and travel. I do want REAL fish and chips, but probably only once. I think I've pretty much decided against Oxford/Cambridge, in order to focus on Bath, Dorset, and London proper.

    I guess another area yet-to-be-discussed is trinkets, souvenirs, and the like--which is admittedly going to be largely up to me and whatever strikes my fancy. I think it's going to be kind of hard to find some things that a) I can't get easily in the States, b) doesn't break the bank (why sure, I'll buy a handmade kilt in the family tartan! Why sure, I'll buy a handmade pewter mug!) and c) can be reasonably transported back with me (blackthorns?)

    I love books. Love love ollllllllld books. A few British comics would be rad, so I'll check out Gosh. I don't know if London has many traditional street things, like street art in Paris. Other than that... any ideas? Pretty open-ended, I know.
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeMay 18th 2011
     (9873.18)
    Old books... Charing Cross road north of Leicester Square towards Oxford Street seems to be where all the books stores are (second hand, antiquarian, and brand new. My fave bookstore in London, Foyles, is on there). It'll also leave you close to Denmark street, which is a little alleyway filled with places selling musical instruments. London still has that medieval quarter's thing going outside of the main shopping streets, where a lot of the people selling a particular kind of thing are all on the same street.

    If you don't mind the trinkets being touristy tat, then you'll struggle to NOT walk past at least three stands selling the stuff on any given day.

    Do pick up an up to date tube map when you arrive though, it's going through all kinds of crazy changes at the moment due to Crossrail being built and the joining of several old above ground lines to the network. The main central London comedy at the moment is that the northern line no longer stops at Tottenham Court Road, which is a pain as that's the best stop for a lot of the comic places...
    • CommentAuthorbiglig
    • CommentTimeMay 18th 2011
     (9873.19)
    I find that lately I mostly get buses rather than the tube when visiting London. The buses are more complicated, and slower, and boy is it hard to find paper bus maps these days, but you get a view.

    My favourite museum is the Victoria and Albert, which is sort of the "museum for stuff we couldn't figure out which museum it should go in".

    My favourite art gallery is the National Gallery, in part because it has the best sofa in the world, in Room 34. Looking at it, you might think "well, it's certainly a nice sofa, quite comfortable, well made and so on, but the best in the world? Seems a bit ambitious...wait, sorry, is that Constable's The Haywain?"

    For beer related matters, check out CAMRA, the campaign for Real Ale, in particular their Good Beer Guide. I note with mixed feelings that it's now available as an ebook, a smartphone/tablet app, and a POI file for SatNavs.
  7.  (9873.20)
    New question. My wife wants me to ask about night clubs--she wants to prove or disprove her fantasy that all night clubs in London are like the crazy Russian clubs you see in the movies. We did hear from one friend that there's some sort of crazy, three-story club, but I also want to say that 1) we're not too fond of clubs, therefore 2) we want to see something that's either typical or crazy, unless those are one and the same of course. We'll probably only hit up one, unless we're tanked and decide to hit up two. While you're at it--what cover charge is typical? For the clubs that don't house the movie stars, that is?

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