Jul, 2010 19

days out, drink/eat Maida Vale…Eat & Drink in a Peaceful Part of Town

In the Paddington, Westminister area of West London, not far from the Beatles old stomping ground of St John’s Wood and the elegant funk of Notting Hill, is nestled the area of Maida Vale, an area worth your time if you are seeking a more peaceful pace than Central London. Here are shops, cafes, a nearby puppet theater and comedy club, the BBC recording studios, punctuated with pubs and trees and a sense of how the other 1/10 might live. I suggest two places below that are excellent places to eat and drink. Both are worth a trip to Maida Vale.

Maida Vale has its own Tube stop named after itself and has one of the most charming Tube stations in all of London. Maida Vale is in W9 if you are taking a taxi, but the Tube ride is a mere 10 mins., direct, from Paddington Station and a 20 min. direct shot from Charing Cross Station on the Bakerloo line.

After WWII this area was gentrified in a large way, evolving from a place, in the 1930’s and 40’s with gorgeous mansions broken up into rented rooms-some by the hour-ahem, and also by the month. Now it consists of those same mansions broken up into family flats (apartments) that are owned or rented. The rentals are not for all, alas, as 2010 prices for a 1 bedroom flat are about $650 a week. 85 per cent of housing in Maida Vale is flats; the rest, large, showy one- family homes whose front doors suggest something even grander beyond them.

In Maida Vale are two wonderful places to eat and drink that you might try. One a pub, The Grand Union, and one a family run Eritrean (African) restaurant called Mosob. Both can be reached by the Hammersmith and City Tube Line, the Ladbroke Grove Tube stop. But, the much more scenic way is to traverse to these lovely places to eat and drink from the Maida Vale Tube stop on the Bakerloo line.

The Grand Union Pub

The Grand Union has beer, wine, rustic/modern tables and fabulous soups and salads daily, as well as evening specials of pasta dishes, lamb stew or shepard’s pie. The setting in summer is especially lovely because they have an assortment of tables outside right on the canal.

To find the Grand Union:

Take the Bakerloo line to Maida Vale. Come to the top of the only set of stairs at the Maida Vale Tube station and turn left on the large avenue in front of you-Elgin Ave. Walk approx 12 mins down a tree-lined, mansion filled street until you come to the Royal Bank of Scotland on your left near a busy (and less ch-chi-la- la) bustling square , turn left here and walk 3 mins toward a small bridge/overpass. There, on your left, is the Grand Union Pub..

Their hours are here: http://www.beerintheevening.com/pubs/s/37/3753/Grand_Union/Westbourne_Park

The Grand Union would qualify as, what the English call, a gastro pub. This means (as I understand it) that it has likely been modernized, decor-wise, inside (very often to great effect) and that it serves some usual pub fare along with more contemporary choices of food, such as gazpacho soup in summer, or crab cakes and creamy butternut squash soup in winter.

Mosob is an absolute favorite of mine. Each time I have gone I have been charmed by the service and delighted with the spicy African food. Cold beer, a sweet decor and service with a smile have kept me going back these last few years with dear friends who live in the area.

Mosob, too, can be reached: by the Hammersmith and City Tube line, but you can get to it the same scenic way as above. I highly recommend that route. For Mosob, though, when you get to the Royal Bank of Scotland and the bustling square, look over toward your left. Across from the bank you will see Mosob at 339 Harrow Road. For hours and menu, look here: http://www.mosob.com/

Think of Maida Vale for a day or evening in a more peaceful London ~ I think you will be impressed.

P.S. From both of these places you are a five min. walk to Notting Hill’s famous Portobelo Road.

Come along with me…..London calling….


Jul, 2010 19

days out, drink/eat Life’s a Picnic…in London

It may be true that ” in spring a young man’s thoughts turn to love” , but in spring, my thoughts often turn to picnicking. Having a picnic in London will offer you a unique travel experience that could make your London stay memorable in a different way.

Let me tell you about two places in London to picnic where there are not hordes of people and where its possible to have a peaceful tete- a- tete with your sweetheart, or a place that is excellent for taking children on a picnic. I mention out of the way places devoid of hordes of tourists, but if you want the also lovely “oh, will I spot a celebrity” kind of experience, by all means head over to Hampstead Health-a park in NW London. There, I hear tell, Jude Law is known to toss a Frisbee about with dramatic flair, calling attention to his actor-y self all the while. A friend has spotted him many times around that section of London and notices that he does little to hide his light under a bushel basket. So if actor- spotting is your sport , off you go.

For your London picnic, either you can ask your hotel restaurant to pack you a picnic if they will, or try one of the places mentioned here: http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/restaurants/london-summer-picnics-feature-1036.html .

The best idea yet, may be to find the closest Camden Food Company, Costa, Eat, Cafe Nero or Marks and Spencer’s food shops: all places that have fresh daily, pre-made sandwiches of vegetarian and non-vegetarian variety, along with juices, soda, coffees and teas and slices of cake to go. Chilled bottles of champagne, wine or beer can be found some of those places, too, or at Odd Bins, a chain of wine shops all over London. The least hard thing to do in London-town is to find alcohol to accompany any occasion.

If the season is right, why not pack a simple travel picnic kit to take for your London picnic experience? You may be like me in that you want style to feature while you picnic. If you are, consider packing these items:

~  ” plastique” wine glasses or champagne flutes

~  ” plastique-but stylish”,  dinner size plates (Ikea, Crate and Barrel and Target all do a nice range of these)

~    forks, knives and spoons from your silverware drawer (who wants plastic utensils when you are trying to be chic in London?), wrapped in cloth napkins so they don’t get lost in your luggage, (of course these would go in your checked luggage).

~  wrap all of these items in your luggage in a a very large, beautiful beach towel to use as your picnic blanket



So called, not because you need to be a postman to picnic here, simply because the park in located on the site of the original head office of the general post office. It is located in” The City”, home of banks galore, but is hidden and probably even the bankers know nothing about the place.

The location is in the church yard of St Leonards on FosterLane, Aldergate between King Edward Street, Angel Street and Little Britian. The post code is EC1A 7BX. You can give this info to the black cab driver if you decide to cab it there. The closest Tube station is St Pau’sl Cathedral. The park is a few minutes walk from the Tube. However, I would suggest a cab to the park if you are at all direction-challenged. I would not dare to try to be of more help in this instance as, although this is an area I know quite well, I had to call out my posse not long ago because I got lost on King Edward Street and might be there still had I not been rescued. Lots of alley ways and nooks and crannies in The City, so maybe cabbing it is best. Let me tell you why I think this park is worth the effort, though.

At Postman Park, along with the small fountain, plenty of benches and green grass and trees, you will find touching tributes to ordinary people who, over the last 125 years, have done extraordinary things to save someones life. Their tales are briefly depicted in hand lettered Royal Dalton plaques under a wooden canopy. These little stories spelled out make it a very special place to share a London picnic with people you care about.


If a miniature railway that you can ride on( if you are under nine years old) is more your thing, head over to Brockwell Park in SE London, near Brixton. The park is open daily at 7:30 a.m and closes 15 minutes before sunset. What a wonderful way to keep time: ” I’ll meet you 15 minutes before sunset”.

In Brockwell Park, along with a Regency style building called Brockwell Hall, you will find a walled garden, a shaded arbor and a lido (large outside swimming pool) that is unusual for London. Additionally, there are 6 tennis courts if you fancy a pre-picnic game. The railway operates a select times mentioned here on this link for the park: http://www.brockwellpark.com/

To get to the park:

The park is a 7 minute walk from the over-ground train station and a 15 minute walk from the Tube station. I’ll let you Google the park’s site for very specific directions, as they are a bit complicated. The miniature train and the lido make it a worthwhile effort if you are taking children on a picnic, though. They also have events weekly throughout the summer that make this a destination that adults and children can enjoy together.

Come along with me…London calling…

Apr, 2010 27

days out Beer and Jazz in London? Sounds Good to Me


If in London the 27th of May through the 31st of May, 2010, the Greenwich Beer and Jazz Festival may be calling your name.

This year marks the third year of the festival which is advertised as “small and manageable” and is located in one of the most bucolic places in London: Greenwich. Despite being a part of London, it has a very East Coast, US Ivy league college campus feel about it. With vast, vast open green spaces, the Cutty Sark, the Royal Observatory, fabulous little cafes and views across London that will inspire you to take up painting even if you don’t know one end of a paint brush from another.

Back to the beer…every festival needs beer and 200 plus real ales, summer brews and ciders will be on offer from noon to midnight-ish.

Chilling with music and beer in such a setting is a wonderful way to enjoy part of London culture. If nothing more, it will be great for people watching; if mother nature provides, it could be a sunny afternoon well spent in one of the most beautiful parts of London that is somehow cut off from the fray of the inner city, but yet a very defintie part of the big lovely picture that is London.

Drink and listen to Jazz. Why not, you are on vacation, after all.

How to get there: Take the DLR (Dockland Light Railway), which allows you to use your Oyster Card now, and get off at the Maritime Greenwich stop. Then it’s a five minute, well sign-posted walk to the Old Royal Naval College where the festival will be held.

The DLR connects with London’s Tube system at the Bank Tube stop on the Central Line or at the Tower Hill stop which is on the District and Circle Tube line.

Tickets here: www.greenwichbeerandjazz.com

Come along with me….London calling….

Jan, 2010 07


Whether traveling with children, your sweetheart, or on your own, the choice of Days Out to enjoy in London is simply endless. To the right will be specific ideas for days out; below is general information about various sections of London that you might want to explore.

In the North East of London are the markets, clubs and galleries in Camden and Islington. Did you know, from Camden Lock you can take a canal boat ride from there to the London Zoo (http://www.zsl.org/) and beyond?


In the extreme North East of London there is Epping Forest to explore via walking and biking trails and activities: http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/corporation/LGNL_Services/Environment_and_planning/Parks_and_open_spaces/Epping_Forest/ and the vibrant Brick Lane area, home to many an Indian restaurant, shops and art galleries of all descriptions.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6rn1qKYfXE

South East London features Dulwich Park, with acres of manicured lawns, fields and age old trees: a perfect place for strolling and picnicking. SE London is also home to the venerable Cutty Sark http://www.greenwichwhs.org.uk/ , along with the gracious grounds of the Royal Observatory, a perfect place for young children to run off their excess energy after a visit to the We Are Astronomers exhibit (until May 2010): http://www.nmm.ac.uk/visit/events/we-are-astronomers.

Theaters abound in the West End for a matinee or evening performance: http://londontheatredirect.com/ . Just minutes from the theaters, the River Thames snakes its way through London with pubs and cafes galore on its “shores”, offering a fine resting point in your day out. Walk along the Thames, down to the Houses of Parliament: the heart of British Government. Perhaps an hour or two of observing the goings-on at Parliament will take your fancy: http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/ .

Also, along the Thames is the impossible to miss, London Eye: http://www.londoneye.com/ , a very slow moving, enclosed “Ferris wheel” that offers views over the heart of London and beyond and is well, well worth the price of admission. It is, albeit, a very touristy thing to do, but the vantage point it offers perfectly counteracts any disadvantages. Keep in mind that the “ride” is a ½ hour long. Sundown is my favorite viewing time from atop the wheel. London looks simply majestic while there. Sometimes they even serve cocktails!

The Thames carries on down through South West London, all the way to Richmond where there is yet another stunning park: Richmond Park. You will be awed by its peaceful beauty so close to the hustle of Central London. There are waking paths, biking paths and sporting options (http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond_park/sport.cfm) and a most elegant setting for café-type, affordable food at Pembroke Lodge located on the edge of the park between the Richmond Gate and the Ham Gate (http://www.richmondparklondon.co.uk/pembrokelodge/). The views over London from the back of the lodge are some of the most spectacular you’ll find.

Gardens and the ultra charming “village” of Kew is just 20 minutes from Central London in the South West, too, offering a cozy village feel, small boutiques, a few good restaurants and a short walk to acres of beauty at Kew Gardens. The gardens include an incredible tree top walk called the Xstrata. Take a virtual tour here: http://apps.kew.org/trees/. The Palm House at Kew Gardens will fool you into thinking that you are in the Rain Forrest…at least for a few minutes.

North West London, to my mind the most gentle, leafy part of London, treats you to the infamous Notting Hill, the quiet allure of St. John’s Wood and the famous Abbey Road. Maida Vale and Little Venice, two other wonderful places in NW London are perfect for strolling, perfect for taking photos and even better for little café’s and pubs to wile away an afternoon soaking up a gentler part of London.

Jan, 2010 07

days out, drink/eat Quiet Charm in Chislehurst SE London

Chislehurst, circa 973AD, in outer South East London is a Walt Disney style version of a small English village: an enclave of quaintness in outer London, just 20 minutes from Central London. Now that the Oyster card system has been expanded, your card will take you all the way from Charing Cross overground train station the center of Chislehurst. The Bakerloo Tube line and  Northern Tube line will take you to Charing Cross. Once there, take the escalator to the mainline station. At Charing Cross look on the boards for the next train to Chislehurst which run every 20 mins., or so.

As you depart the train at Chislehurst, be sure to notice the beyond charming Denny’s Restaurant located just inside the small train station in the old ticket office. Here you can have the best seafood that I have had outside of New England in a setting that is by turns romantic and whimsical. It is a well attended spot for a very English tradition: Sunday lunch. The service there is impeccable, warm and friendly; the wine list impressive. So worth a visit, just minutes away from Central London.http://www.dennysseafoodrestaurant.co.uk/

A day out in Chislehurst can begin with a tour of the caves (leave the front of the station, turn left, go down the hill and turn right on the “high street” (what the English call the main street in a village or town). The caves are a three minute walk from the train station and the route is well marked. They are open almost every day, almost all year around: http://www.chislehurstcaves.co.uk/ After the caves, a stroll around the center of Chislehurst and dinner at Denny’s before gliding back on the train to the whirl of busy London.

Chislehurst Caves is a good visit for children (who aren’t afraid of the dark) and adults who will appreciate the profound history. While children may not understand the importance the caves played nightly for thousands of people during WWII as shelter from the bombs falling on London, the will surely enjoy the intrigue of ¾ of a mile walk through the caves, as everyone holds “lamps” to light the way.

If you are more clever than me, you will at least consider sensible shoes(i.e. not three inch heels) for the trek through the caves where the terrain is uneven!

Come along with me…..London calling…



Nov, 2009 20

days out Live Like a King in Hampton Court

Hampton Court

Hampton Court

Thanks to the well-crafted exhibits and events offered throughout the year, Hampton Court Palace offers you an insider’s view of Tudor England. Parties and political parlays filled the halls during King Henry VIII’s reign. Births, marriages, divorces, and even a house arrest all took place here during the Tudor Period. However, a vivid reminder that Hampton Court Palace isn’t completely ALL about Henry is the contrasting architecture we see today. In 1689, King William III remodeled parts of the palace resulting in both Tudor and Baroque elements, a lovely testament to the history of this building. more