begin, we had an amazing Keralan (coastal south Indian)
dinner at a place called Rasa
(55 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16) in London's Stoke
Newington neighborhood. The food is totally unlike anything
we had before in the States. I think that we took the
Tube to Euston and then a double-decker bus (we were meeting
a local friend). If you go, it might not hurt to (a) make
reservations and (b) call for directions on how to get
there via transport. Rasa happens to be completely vegetarian,
but both of us (die-hard carnivores) loved it. If you
can't decide what to have, they have a set menu where
one can pick from the restaurant's specialties. Rasa has
other outposts around town, but the Stoke Newington location
is the original and some say, the best. We found it well
worth the short hike. Stoke Newington is a very real neighborhood
-- not unsafe or sketchy, just not at all touristy.
had two cheap-but-very-good food faves - (1) Wagamama,
an asian/urban noodle chain where you sit with other diners
at long communal tables. Great fun! (2) We enjoyed the
outposts; 50 Earlham St. in the theatre zone (and its
various spinoffs about town) for beer, mussels, more beer,
frites, more beer, and other Belgian faves. If you go
between 4pm and 6pm, they have a beat-the-clock dinner
special where you get their specialties for whatever time
it is (that is, come in at 5:30, pay �5.30).
Wagamama was suggested by another reader as well. Linda
from Toronto, Canada writes: In London, check out www.wagamama.com.
It's a great site that provides all the locations' addresses,
dine in and take-out menus. This chain offers funky and
friendly places with good food and value. It's also non-smoking!
wine and beer...
our favorite find is a sandwich shop chain called Pret
� Manger. They're everywhere, but sometimes the signs
just say PRET. They've got stunningly good (if slightly
mayonnaisey) sandwiches and crisps and other lunchy things.
Check out their website: www.pret.com before you travel.
We also went to the basement grocery store of
Marks & Spencer for in-room picnic supplies. If you'll
have access to a kitchen, or even a microwave, I suggest
you go to M&S's grocery at least once just to see all
the amazing prepared foods. Branches
of the Oddbins shops are perfect places to find trustworthy
wine that's not overpriced.
trains and boats...
of the best parts of our trip was a walking tour we took
Walks. Our tour guide, Tom (the Barrister), was a
true Upper Crust Character; I would go out of my way to
take another walk with him.
We took the Wednesday London Explorer Day, which covered
a lot of ground, but nicely. The other customers on the
walk were not at all your typical tour people.
took the somewhat eerie Docklands
Light Railway out to Greenwich
to see the meridian. A brass marker runs all through town,
so there's no need to haul yourself to the observatory
unless you feel the need. Do check some pubs,
a couple of which were very neat -- The
Richard I (has a great back garden),
and the Gipsy
Moth (sits right near the Thames
boat dock). Someone on the web described the Gipsy as
"actually really cool, trendy without trying too hard."
this last trip, we inadvertently spent quite a bit of
time riding boats on the Thames, which turned out to be
a lot of fun. The captains generally give some sort of
impromptu narration of the buildings that you're floating
by, then pass the hat as you leave. Some are more entertaining
than others, but it was always a pleasant trip.
saved the best tip for last. You might want to try it,
too. When we first arrived in London we went straight
from Heathrow to our hotel, dropped off our bags, and
then went to the posh Dorchester
Hotel's spa for massages. If you go mid-week they
almost certainly will have space for you to rest in their
post-massage relaxing room --ask for the "ionization room"
(I think that's the name but you can check when you're
there). Imagine yourself newly massaged and wrapped in
a robe, tucked into your own personal waterbed with cozy
sheets in a room with dim lights. Ahh....