"4. GARY WEBB'S VIEW OF LONDON
Here is this issue's offering, from Gary Webb of Nashville, Tenessee, USA, who writes with his impressions of London, following a recent visit...
I love London. I could easily spend the rest of my life in a little flat near Regents Park. I will commune with Handel and Churchill in Birdcage Walk, have lunch with Hilda Rumpole at Harrods', and meet Emma Peel for a concert at Covent Gardens. My favorite building shall be Docklands and I will buy my supper at Simply Sausages in John Adam Street on my way to the Embankment after checking in with Sherlock at Charring Cross Station. London is THE place for American romantics!
The major arrival surprise for this romantic was the Dickensian exterior of Victoria station where myriad button-holing hucksters descended like a plague to offer one cab rides to "hotels" while one was trying to carry eight bags through the surrounding mob, without the foggiest notion of where one was going. Escaping the station entrance, one dodged the fast-moving traffic coming from the wrong direction (the grade school admonition "stop, look and listen" took on a whole new meaning) and crossed the street to a small park to rest for a few moments only to be confronted by a shirt- shoe -and -sockless panhandler asking about a "fag". Now this was where watching cultural programs such as Masterpiece Theater paid-off: after some thought, I realized that "fag" meant "cigarette". Even if you're the most ardent anti-smoking nazi, consider carrying a pack of "fags" so you can hand them out to get rid of street characters. On the positive side this was where one knew he was really in London even the street people had English accents and were relatively polite; the guy in the park said "thank you sir" and departed without further hassle!
The London Tourist Board is located at the entrance of Victoria Station. I can't say enough about the friendly, helpful, tireless, dedicated people who work here. For a small, reasonable sum they assist the ignorant traveler to secure decent lodging. After wandering outside Victoria Station for a couple of hours looking in vain for suitable accommodations, we used their services to find our very nice hotel, the Delmere in Sussex Gardens (wonderful continental breakfast).
Later, at the end of our European journey, we again turned to them in desperation since we had chosen to return on the one weekend of the year when hordes of schoolkids from the continent visit London on holiday! This time we found another wonderful hotel, the Regents Park in Glouscester Place, just a stone's throw from 221B Baker Street (here, we must thank the manager of the hotel who secured for us an extra day's stay, so that we didn't have to spend our last day in Europe in a hotel near the airport!
While the most spiritually enjoyable aspect of London was simply being there, the most physically enjoyable was the pubs. The best continental food was at Hennelly's in Balcombe Street; the Welsh chef is exceptional. The best Bitters was Ruddles, and the best fish and chips was at The Pride Of Paddington (address unknown), discovered fortuitously upon taking the wrong exit from Paddington Station! Sort of a working-class place, it might not appeal to some, but if you like to eat at truckstops instead of fernbars, give it a try!
And, speaking of the spiritual, the best and cheapest coffee was at the Westminster Abbey rubbing station. The most ethereal experience was a toss up between hearing Big Ben up close, watching the helicopters fly around the various political protests from the hotel window at night, and gazing upon very personal objects dredged from the TITANIC by the French (take doubledecker bus 188 to the Maritime Museum at Greenwich, in itself a good sightseeing tour). The best advice I can give is: be very polite; the Londoners are. Oh, and have a jolly time!
Gary Webb, Nashville, Tenessee, USA
Thanks for that Gary. Sounds like the 'hucksters' you encountered at Victoria Station were the same people we warn tourists about in our 'How not to be ripped off pages' on the web site. We call them 'Taxi-Touts' and they need to be avoided at all costs!!! Gary also sent us some pics of himself, knocking back a few sherbets in the local. Ed!"