Off the Beaten Path: What to do in London That Doesn't Make You Look like a Tourist.

May 20, 2021

"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." Samuel Johnson

The sun is shining. Another beautiful weekend begins. Breakfast was good, but you’re already craving ice cream to beat the heat. “Oh! Wayne, I’ve forgotten my sunglasses,” your wife winks at you and gets up, “and your pills.” You exit the tour bus together followed by the suspicious glare of the tour guide. Are there chuckles coming from Marv and Francine in the back?

“Quickly please, Mr. and Mrs. MacGyver. We’ll miss our time slot at the Palace.” 

“We’ll be right back!” You and your wife wave and enter the hotel. Then you slip out the side door and hail a black cab. 

Once a Hepcat, always a Hipster

While the tour group is off to Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square to feed the pigeons, you are off to crazier destinations. 

“Shoreditch please.” 

“Right you are Guv! Ten minutes, innit? Ten quid, ‘n Bob’s your uncle.” 

You and your wife turn to each other with a puzzled grin. The cabbie starts up the meter and you are off! Notorious East London. Petticoat Lane, The Cray Twins, and Whitechapel await.

"Shoreditch is the coolest district of London. You can go there for street art, street food, hipster places, and even a charcoal ice cream.” Tripsget

An hour later you are contentedly licking your licorice and lime sherbet and remembering the cool moments of your youth. Bella holds your arm and nibbles a Flake bar. The walk from Shoreditch through Spitalfields and on to Whitechapel is not long, but there is a lot to see. “Odd to think Jack the Ripper walked these streets.” 

You laugh. “Yes, and that Spitalfields was originally a hospital. Remember the Paris history book in our hotel? The exiled Huguenots came here, too. Huge silk industry thanks to them.” 

Your wife holds you tighter. “Mmm Wayne, wandering together is so much nicer than going to see the Queen.”

Who needs a boat when you can walk beneath the Thames

Sitting atop the double-decker bus allows you thirty minutes to take some great photos. Next stop, Canary Wharf and the Thames. While the office towers of the Wharf are bustling during the week, on a weekend the area is almost empty. A wonderful chance to admire the skyscrapers.

“There are five shopping centers here. Wow.” Your wife looks up from the brochure she found on the bus. 

“Shopping? Do you need anything?”

“I have you. And you just bought me this lovely hat in Berlin.”

You smile. “How about we go to the other side of the river?”

“I don’t know. Tower Bridge is so far away. And you know I don’t like boats. Well, except for that romantic river cruise we went on when Katrin went to college. That was nice.”

“Who said anything about going over the river? We’re going to walk under it!”

“The Canary Wharf foot tunnel is nine feet wide. It was designed in 1899 and opened in 1902. The North tower has 87 steps, and the South tower has 100.” London Travel Co

You emerge in Greenwich, on the other side of the Thames. First you stop to catch your breath. Your wife laughs. “I told you not to eat a double sherbet cone.”

“I never knew about all those stairs!”

A wine bar, a house of ill-repute, and a Bishop

Even off the beaten path, no visit to London is complete without riding the famous London Tube. From Greenwich on the Jubilee line to Westminster Abbey takes 15 minutes. As you regain the surface a familiar voice calls out “There they are! Wayne! Bella! Hello!” They are too slow. You quickly descend and jump on the next Tube. The ride from Westminster to Tower Hill takes another 15 minutes.

The Tube is fast and exciting. It’s also very tight. “I wouldn’t want to try to get out of there in a hurry.” Bella shakes her head, happy to be back in daylight. “I could use a cold drink. The sun is really hot.”

You frown slightly and then snap your fingers. “What is cooler than a cave?” You take your wife’s hand and gently lead her away.

The wine cellar is more than welcoming after the hot sunshine. “Did you know they have cheese from fifteen countries?” Your wife looks up from the menu. “Hmm. Well did you know that this building was originally the home of the Bishop of Norwich? Eight hundred years ago.” You read further. “Oh my! One hundred years ago it housed a brothel.”

Bella looks scandalized, and you laugh. “I love you.” She raises her glass of Pinot Gris and you clink your glasses together. “It’s been another amazing adventure together.”

“Gordon’s Wine Bar has quenched the thirst of wine lovers for over 130 years. Close to Covent Garden and London’s Theatreland, it is a hidden gem, just minutes away from Trafalgar Square between Charing Cross and Embankment stations. Gordon’s is renowned for its history with a vaulted candlelit cellar.” Gordon’s Wine Bar

Back on the Beaten Path

The next morning you are late for breakfast. The last of the tea, toast, and scrambled eggs remain, but you both have little appetite. “Could we please have two coffees?” The waitress smiles and you take a seat outside. 

“Hello strangers!” Marv and Francine are sitting in the sunshine on the far side of the patio and get up to greet you. “You missed the palace tour.”

“Did you see the Queen?” 

“No, she wasn’t in.” Marv laughs. “I think she was at her weekend palace.”

“Where did you two get to?” Francine sits down next to your wife.

“You would never guess it, Francine, but we had wine in a brothel.”

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