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February 18, 2009



The National Portrait Gallery is perhaps my favorite art museum in London--that or the Tate Britain, which has a solid collection of Pre-Raphaelite art. The British Museum is wonderful, especially the central court and the former British Library Reading Room. The British Library itself isn't that far away, and has a good behind-the-scenes tour as well as permanent and rotating exhibitions.

The Victoria and Albert is fantastic, and worth the tube ride and walk. So is Kew Gardens, if you like plants.

For oddities, it's hard to beat Sir John Soane's Museum.

London Walks (http://www.walks.com) walking tours are top-notch. My favorite so far was one that did the Inns of Court, but there's something for every taste.

The Church of Saint Martin's in the Fields has concerts that are quite reasonable, and a good cafeteria in the crypt. Most of the art museums have cafes that are much, much better than anything I've found in US museums. The cafe in the Victoria and Albert is particularly good.

I attended worship in Saint Paul's Cathedral one late afternoon and got to sit in the choir area, because I said I would be there for the whole service and not just as a tourist. The view from the top of St. Paul's in great, and the whispering gallery is fun if you don't mind all the steps. Ditto The Monument, marking the Great Fire.

I second the suggestion to focus on Chinese and Indian food. And do try the bitter in a pub. Lots of the gay bars serve American beer in bottles, but getting a pint of bitter is the way to go. "Halfs" are for girls, FYI.

The Camden Locks markets are quirky and fun. So is Spittalfields market.

Pick up the local weeklies (including the gay ones) for listings once you get there. A "club" may be a once-a-week event in a location that will seem to have a different name the next night. Don't be afraid to stay out late, and you can ask doormen to call a night cab for you. Don't take unlicensed gypsy cabs, but on the other hand, the black cabs don't run late at night. The night buses can be an interesting experience.


Liberty is a must for mostly-window shopping (makes Bloomingdales look like Sears). Make time to go to the bookstore district - there are 4 great ones within walking distance from one another.


I liked the tate Modern, and we went on a tour of a castle that was cool too. Oh hell, it was all fun and I'm jealous!


My favorite restaurant is called Rules - it's very old school England, delicious food. It might look stuffy, but the food is great and it's right in the hub of the theater district. Go to the theater!


I haven't been to London in years and years. Although I have a real soft spot for the city -- I was fortunate to spend a semester there in college. I remember I loved every minute of it. Definitely the visit of Tower. I visited the National Portrait Gallery more than once, but then, I like that sort of thing. Seeing all the monuments to the famous dead people at Westminster is worth it. In any case, I know you'll have a lovely time. Too bad you won't be changing planes in London -- the last time we went through there, we were vigorously patte-down by some uniformed gentleman. Highlight of our trip!

Maybe we could cut a deal and trade tours of our respective Austins?


I'm afraid I can't be of much help. My London experience consists of arriving at the Victoria Station bus terminal, walking a block to the Tube station, catching the Tube to King's Cross, then getting a train to Leicestershire. Two weeks later I did pretty much the same in reverse, except there was a train to Gatwick instead of another bus.

One thing I'm thinking you'd want to avoid, though, is the Eye. Just the thought of going up in that thing gives me the heebie-jeebies.


If you have the time, do the Stonehenge/Bath tour. Both are interesting, but each in its own way.


Chinese food. Indian food. The real deal. Oh, the millions of ways you can spend your food dollars there. Oh, and the Tower of London. Yeah, it's a tourist spot, but a fascinating one.

Austin? I have to go there in April for a day. Besides the Spam Museum, what should I look for?


I don't know if you'll have time to get out of town, but if you do, do. The English countryside is beyond charming. Oxford is an hour and a half away; I spent time there when my sister lived there, and it's a wonderful place to visit: ridiculously rich in old stuff to see, and it's great fun to see the various colleges. Oxford is also a thriving small city, with great restaurants, shops, parks, etc.

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