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She Explores Residential London

Our London expert, Leslie Ehm is a regular Journeywoman contributing editor. We’re delighted to hear  that one of her latest travel articles has been selected for an upcoming Travelers  Tales anthology. Leslie  writes...

The city of London is one of the world's most popular travel destinations, yet the likelihood is, that most visitors never really get the sense of what real London life is all about.

Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street - all great tourist spots and worth seeing, but they are about a thousand miles away from what London actually is - how it feels, smells, its neighbourhoods and its diverse culture.

Quite recently, the impressive Regents Plaza Hotel opened its door. It’s not unlike many other top class London hotels, with its glamorous lobby, classy restaurants, health club and comfortable if not pricey rooms. But there is something quite unique about this hotel - its location! Set right on the apex of Maida Vale and Kilburn, it’s the last place one would expect a hotel of this calibre to be situated.

Welcome to my neighbourhoods...

homeMaida Vale is a largely residential area - somewhat upmarket although still affordable. It has a few cafes, very little “real” shopping and other than a few corner stores offerring amenities, not much on the surface to attract tourists.

Kilburn is a true London neighbourhood. Featuring a largely Irish community, it also boasts an amazingly integrated population. On a Saturday morning, you'll see examples of every cultural persuasion shopping on its bustling high street. It's not too pretty, not pristine, and certainly isn't tourist orientated, but it’s real - and has been my home for 13 years. I know the true secrets that both Kilburn and Maida Vale have to offer....

touristGet the tourist stuff done...

So, for a stay in London of a different kind- - one that will give you a true taste of the city -- why not try this? First, enjoy a few nights luxurious stay in the plush Regents Plaza Hotel. Though you’ll be located a bit far from the heart of the action, you’re close to transportation which by bus (#16A / 98), by tube (Kilburn Park - Bakerloo line), or by cab (approx. £6), will take you to any one of the usual touristy attractions London has to offer. Then, when you're finally tired of taking photos of London “Bobby”s or queuing up at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum...

Welcome to the Real London...

This itinerary can be broken down over several days or as you see fit. Let’s begin with a stroll along Maida Vale. (walk out of the hotel and turn left) Check out the fantastic 18th/19th century architecture as you make your way to Clifton Gardens, where you can stop for a lovely lunch at one of several cafes. I recommend Raoul's or Café Rouge. After lunch, continue up Maida Vale until you hit Café La Ville (which marks the end of Maida Vale and the start of Edgeware Road). Take a seat, order a cup of their fantastic coffee and their yummy baked cheesecake dessert. Then, look out over the canal which the tiny restaurant straddles.cake and coffeeAfter taking in the view, you'll understand why this area is known as Little Venice and no doubt you’ll be inspired to inspect the canal a little more closely. Walk down Blomfield Road and find an open gateway to lead you right down along the water. Here, you'll find houseboat after houseboat, ornately decorated-- some even with elaborate gardens along the walkway. If this starts to give you a taste for the open water, you can ride a tour boat along the canals from Little Venice all the way to Camden Lock, some 3 miles away. The fare is £5 one way, and worth every penny. This is a part of London that few tourists ever end up seeing.




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