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London - off the beaten track ideas

Old Apr 10th, 2009, 11:26 AM
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London - off the beaten track ideas

We arrive in London on the "ides of May" for 6 days (though not sure day of arrival counts for much). As we have spent roughly 4 weeks in London in the last 11 years (most recently '04), we've done most of the more popular sites/museums, the "big name" markets, and quite a number of day trips (Dover, Canterbury, Salisbury, Cambridge, Leeds Castle, Brighton, probably more). On the agenda this year is a return to Hampton Court Palace, National Gallery, and some things we haven't done since our first visit in 1971 - Portrait Gallery (that one won't take long) and weather permitting, Kew Gardens and Regents Park/the zoo.

It's not like we can't entertain ourselves in London (or else why would we have chosen to go?) but I thought maybe some of you might have some ideas for off-beat or odd places/things to do. Museum along the lines of Sir John Sloane's and the toy museum in Bethel Green or places like Highgate Cemetery (though we've done those). Since I'm an Egyptology fan, I had info last trip on a really obscure small museum, university connected and located, that suggested you might want to take your own "torch" since the lighting wasn't great. We never made it to the museum and now I've lost the information. Or nteresting places just to walk and enjoy the architecture, scenery, whatever. Or don't-miss trips day trips near London.

Also, we're staying a bit out of my "comfort zone", at a Renaissance on High Holborn, Lincoln Inn Fields area. Does anyone have suggestions for moderately-priced restaurants in the area? We generally head for Chinatown or Edgware Rd. (for Lebanese) if we're looking for an interesting meal at a reasonable price, and we know other places in other parts of town. But sometimes we go back to the hotel before dinner, then don't feel like an expedition to get something to eat.
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 11:43 AM
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I used to work near where your hotel is, and if you're after 'interesting' food in that area, there's a great little Polish bar that serves food nearby called Na Zdrowie http://www.fluidfoundation.com/venue...x?VenueID=1860
You're also close to Covent Garden and all the varied restaurants there.

As for places to see, you may have already done some of these, but what about Greenwich, Hampstead, Maida Vale etc? I think London Walks do some guided tours round there too.
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 12:07 PM
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Repeat trip to London: looking for nontraditional things to do
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ings-to-do.cfm

quirky and/or off the beaten path london?
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ath-london.cfm

favorite non-obvious things in london
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-in-london.cfm

london for returning travelers
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-travelers.cfm

Some of the less touristy places in/around London that I've been to:

Old Operating Theatre
Imperial War Museum
John Soane's Museum
Wallace Collection
William Morris Gallery
Saatchi Gallery
Apsley House
Eltham Palace
Geffrye Museum
Kenwood House
Spencer House (open on Sun only)
Dennis Severs House
Sutton House

Timeout's list of London's 70 best unsung museums
http://www.timeout.com/london/museum...es/1496/1.html
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 12:12 PM
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If you get a chance do go to the Imperial War Museum, the Holocaust exhibit is wonderful. The little park outside with an outdoor cafe makes a nice rest stop.

Try to go to Borough market on a Friday around noon, great fun and great food samples!!
You could check the Horniman museum website and see if that has any interest to you, lots of weird exhibits!

THe Treasures of the Tsar's at the V&A was breathtaking!
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 12:17 PM
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yk -- what did you think of the Geffrye Museum? It's on our radar but we haven't really made it out there yet. Should we make more of an effort? I do enjoy interior design (love to look around people's houses -- does that make me a snoop?) but I don't know too much about the history. Can someone enjoy it without being too well versed in the subject?

polly229 -- I'm still working my way through the "big" things so I don't have too much too add. But I will mention that one of my favorite things to do in London rarely gets mentioned. I enjoyed going to St. Martins in the Crypt and doing a brass rubbing. It was a pretty cool experience and made a really unique souvenir.

Have fun!
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 12:17 PM
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yk & avalon's suggestion of the Imperial War Museum is excellent, and the Holocaust exhibition there is a must see. Obviously it's not cheerful or entertaining, however it is thoughtfully done and very moving.
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 12:22 PM
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BKP - I really enjoyed Geffrye Museum. I am no interior design or period furnishings buff, but I thought it was nicely done. They also have an almshouse which opens rarely - which I haven't been.
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 12:41 PM
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Couldn't tell from your mail whether or not you had been to the Soane Museum--it's just around the corner from your hotel. I believe you need to ask to see the panels comprising Hogarth's The Rake's Progress--be sure to do that. The Inns of Court are close by, London Silver Vaults and a Knight's Templar Church that featured in "The Da Vinci Code, but don't hold that against it.

I love the Chancery Court Hotel; have stayed there maybe 15-20 times. It's very pretty but not the least snobby. Word of warning, the bar (very comfortable) and restaurants in the hotel are very pricey. If you have access to the member's lounge, they do an excellent continental breakfast buffet as well as appetizers and desserts in the evening. The concierge desk in the lobby is very helpful with restaurants in all price ranges as well as with any questions you might have. You probably know you will be about a minute from the Holborn tube stop. Several bus lines stop just outside the hotel.

You are very close to Covent Garden--lots of small restaurants are on the streets/lanes leading into the Garden, also some good ones around the 7 Dials. If you like Indian, we liked one on Kingsway, lft out of the hotel and right on Kingsway about two streets up. The hotel recommended, I can't remember the name.

yk mentioned Kenwood House. On a nice day, take the northern line up to Hampstead (sort of a village feel) and walk along Hampstead Heath to Kenwood House--excellent interiors with Adam detail and incredible view of London. I would prefer this to the zoo unless you really like zoos.
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 12:56 PM
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I love the Geffrye museum and Kenwood House is wonderful. The garden is a delight. If You want to further afield try Clandon Park. A beautiful National Trust House with an exceptional display od china and also on site the Regimental Museum of the THe QUeen's Royal Surrey's.I love to go there and the cafe has a good lunch!
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 01:15 PM
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The Geffrye has a good tea room, too.
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 02:44 PM
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Lots of good info above. Yes to the Geffrye for sure -- and Sir John Soanes as well if you meant you haven't been there (or maybe even if you have)

If you are into gardening - the Chelsea Physic garden is really interesting. http://www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk/
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 04:30 PM
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Thanks, a lot of good ideas. (Yes, went to Soane's a few years ago, though I might do it again; we bee-lined there from the tube and didn't really look at much else in the area, so the Inns of Court are on my list.) Have not been to Maida Vale or most of the places on yks list. And when we went to Hampsted some years ago, Kenwood was closed for some renovation or another - glad to be reminded. (Do enjoy visiting zoos so will definitely go there but hope there have been vast improvements since my first visit in the Dark Ages.)

For some reason was so disappointed in Covent Garden my first visit (where was Eliza Doolittle?) that we have only been there once again, sort of by accident, and honestly never thought about it as a source for food. But I realize it is close, so I'll probably just suck it up and check out the restaurants. (We do have access to the executive lounge at the hotel - in fact, part of the reason we're making this trip is to use up hotel points while my nearly-retired husband is still Platinum Marriott and we don't have to pay for breakfast. But I keep reading about all the hotel cutbacks and am afraid that the perks won't be what they once were. Last week he checked into an Atlanta hotel and found no toilet paper in the room. Hope this isn't a sign of things to come. ;-)) Polish restaurant sounds good.
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 06:05 PM
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Bank of England
Whitechapel Bell Foundry (Liberty Bell, Big Ben)
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 06:26 PM
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Just a suggestion, I'm not sure if you're interested in a day trip, York would be a good choice for a day trip. Trains depart from King's Cross station and the journey to York more than two hours, so it will be a long day.
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 06:30 PM
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Tag for later reference
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 06:32 PM
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I'll echo the recommendations for the Imperial War Museum -- we were there last summer, and spent several hours. Didn't see the Holocaust exhibit, but really enjoyed the WWI exhibits.

Two other suggestions out of town: Marble Hill House (http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/s...show=nav.12809) in Twickenham or Ham House (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-hamhouse) outside of Richmond.

If you go to either of these, you can then walk along the Thames Path to Richmond, eat Thai food at Fat Boys in Richmond (http://tinyurl.com/cv665t), and from there, catch the train or Tube back in to London.

Enjoy!
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 06:51 PM
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HI Polly,

We will be at the RCC right behind you (at least I think so, we do not arrive until 5/30) . DH is also plat and I will be very interested in what you think of the hotel and the exec lounge. I actually have points ressies at a couple of London Marriotts. I have not made my final decision yet but am leaning to the RCC for location and the fact the the lounge does not allow children.
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 07:10 PM
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You could spend a day at Greenwich without trying. The National Maritime Museum can take several hours by itself. Take the Thames boat down and the DLR back. Here are some ideas:

http://www.nmm.ac.uk/places/greenwich/
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 07:47 PM
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We drove around England in '98 and stayed in York a couple of days then. Otherwise, that would be a good idea. Where I'd like to go is Chester, but that's an even longer day, I believe.

HappyCheesehead, after London we're going to Paris for 4 days, then Ireland for 8 days and won't be home till June 2. (Seventeen nights total on hotel points - alas, we are about "pointless" now with Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, et al - even Best Western. Have plenty of airline miles but will have to sleep in the streets next time we go. ) If you decide on RCC and I get internet access somewhere, I'll let you know how it was. But I will tell you that's not my first choice, only reason I did it was that I booked in early Jan., right before the Marriott point requirements went up and they put in the new level 8 (where my favorite hotels all are now, of course); to keep people like me from getting too many goodies before the upped the ante, County Hall, my first choice by a long shot, was blacked out. I figured as soon as the changes were in effect County Hall would open back up - and it was available a month ago, but at over 100,000 more points than I am using for RCC under the old system. I am going to miss looking out my window at Westminster Abbey and Parliament, lying in bed hearing Big Ben tolling away (if I opened the old outside casement windows), and thinking, "I'm not in Kansas anymore". Have stayed at Grovesnor, which was okay, and Marble Arch (twice, back in the days when there were only 3 Marriotts in London), which we don't like at all. We discovered County Hall walking down the river our '98 trip; it had just become a Marriott between the time we booked and the time we got there, and we decided to try it next time. Since then, that's been our choice. (I believe there probably were kids allowed in the County Hall ex. lounge but we were never bothered, don't recall even hearing them.) Just wasn't willing to use the extra points when I could get 4 nights in Paris for them. The only two London Marriotts not inconveniently located and not blacked out just before the "price increase" were Marriott Park Lane and Renaissance; Fodorites slightly preferred the Renaissance over Park Lane and I've walked by Park Lane a few times and wasn't impressed by the location or outside. Never seen the RCC but it's probably time I explored a new part of town. At County Hall, if we'd had a big lunch or a late lunch and got back to the hotel by before 7, the hors d'oeuvres would suffice for dinner. (Cheese, crackers & bread, veggies & dip, fruit, and 3 hot hors d'oeuvres; desserts at 8PM.) Also lounges open on the weekend. Much better lounge deal in London than in any US Marriott I've stayed in. But over 4 years and a recession intervene ....
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Old Apr 10th, 2009, 07:49 PM
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Great thread!

I'm looking into the Fuller Brewery Tour (http://www.visitlondon.com/attractions/detail/285596) and attending a BBC radio show (http://www.bbc.co.uk/tickets/).
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