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Posts Tagged ‘travel london’

London – The West End

Posted in United Kingdom  by admin on March 22nd, 2010

For the London traveler looking for variety, the West End is the place to be. Piccadilly Circus is next door, where antique book shops mix with the latest restaurants and Covent Garden is not far. And, then of course, there’s the world-renowned theater – the rival (some would say tutor) of Broadway.

Soho is a short walk away. For those interested in the red-light district in the home of the Puritans, that’s here – and has been for over a century.

But Soho is much more than strip bars and prostitutes. As the area, along with many parts of London, undergoes a rejuvenation, there are also expensive restaurants and shops to enjoy. Soho Square has places to sit and watch the city go buy in safety and comfort.

Leicester Square has cinemas for the movie-goer and street performers for live, impromptu entertainment. And, as expected, there are crowds of people and distinctive architecture for those who just want to take in the spontaneous sights that uniquely define any metropolis.

To see ground zero of ‘mod’ 60s fashions, visit Carnaby Street where you can still pick up an Austin Powers-style vest or a pair of bell-bottomed jeans.

Shopping galore can be found along Oxford Street, which stretches 3km (1.8mi) through the West end. At one end is the Marble Arch (relocated from Buckingham Palace in the 19th century) to Tottenham Court Road.

The street’s origins date back to Roman times, but now holds over 300 shops with five million square feet of shopping space. There’s everything from large department stores to little specialty shops for that unique gift to take back home. Where else can you get a genuine British Army Officer’s swagger stick than James Smith & Sons?

Selfridge’s (founded in 1909 by the American Henry Gordon Selfridge) is alone worth a visit. It has an elaborate, ornate facade and features a clock known as the Queen of Time.

While you’re in the neighborhood, check out another interesting clock: the Liberty Clock, just outside the Liberty store. Very popular with the tourists, there are figures of St. George and the Dragon on the lower part. Close to Regents Street and Great Malborough Street. Exit at the Oxford Circus tube stop.

But, the piece de resistance has to be the theaters.

The Palace Theater, for example, is a sight to see even from the outside. An ornate terracotta building, first opened as an opera house, it stands at Cambridge Circus and is still a venue for musicals 80 years later. The Roman columns in the black marble foyer will draw you in and up the arched stairway.

With over a dozen major musicals and plays being performed at any time, there’s a wide array of choices. Not least of which is the flagship Royal National Theatre with three auditoriums.

There’s also the re-created Globe Theatre, a favorite since the time of Shakespeare. Open to the elements, with no stage lighting or microphones used, it sits near its original Bankside location.

Be prepared for all sorts of weather and all kinds of people. You’ll see both in London’s West End.

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London – Hyde Park

Posted in United Kingdom  by admin on January 24th, 2010

Perhaps most famous for the Speaker’s Corner, where citizens stand atop a soapbox and shout their views to the crowd, there’s much more to see and do here than listen to political opinions.

The land forming the park was first acquired by Henry VIII from the monks of Westminster Abbey in 1536. While Henry used the park for deer hunting, the horseback riding today is strictly not for sport.

Casual and relaxing, the trails are abundant but riders must bring their own horses. Visitors can often see the Royal Horse Artillery riding on horseback through the park early in the morning.

First made accessible to the public by King James I in the early 17th century, the park is split by the Serpentine, a river dammed to make an artificial lake. The idea was originated by the wife of King George II, an avid gardener. Boat rides on the lake remain a popular activity.

Perhaps the oldest park in London, these 350 acres (140 hectares) contain peaceful walks through gardens and woods, boats for hire, venues for music concerts and is very nearby several stellar pubs and restaurants. There’s even a pet cemetery and during the summer, Sunday concerts are held at the Bandstand.

In the north east corner, at the end of Oxford Street is the famous Marble Arch. The structure was built as a gateway to Buckingham Palace but moved to the park in 1851.

Several monuments located in the park are worth a look. The latest tribute is to the late Diana, Princess of Wales. The fountain is surrounded by and composed of 545 pieces of Cornish granite and the water flows through a complex design into a calm pool. There are three bridges that cross the water over the heart of the fountain.

Sports abound on the many fields, including tennis (6 courts, with a changing pavilion and cafe), a six rink flat bowling green and spontaneous soccer games. The Magenge at the end of the Sports Field offers a children’s playground to amuse the younger kids.

Nearby the park is the Four Seasons Hotel Bar where visitors thirsty from the activity can cool off and get refreshed in a wonderful, upscale environment. The Conservatory in Lanesborough offers a piano bar and great dining.

For those interested in something a little more lively, there’s the Met Bar at the Metropolitan Hotel. Patronized by celebrities, it remains a popular venue. The Rose & Crown pub in Mayfair is probably the rowdiest of the lot, for those who like their entertainment loud and crowded.

Then, there’s the Colony Club for those who like to gamble, and (for service personnel) the Royal Air Force Club isn’t far away. For great dining, the Petrus at The Berkeley Hotel is unbeatable, having rightfully earned its Michelin Star.

The park lies between Bayswater Road to the north and Knightsbridge to the south, with Park Lane to the east and Kensington Gardens to the west. The park is easily reached by the tube (the London Underground, the subway system). Exit at the Hyde Park Corner station.

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