Tuesday, February 4, 2014

London: Disguised as a Local

The "Other Side" of London

Hey Pretty Lady.
I have been fortunate to have some friends and coworkers show me the "Other Side" of London, avoiding the tourist traps and experiencing the city from a local's perspective. Unfortunately my British accent is rubbish (see what I did there?), so I was only in disguise until I spoke.

Is London a HugeParty? Yes, mate.

Like most major cities, London features a rich history and variety of tourist attractions... for the most part, I recommend you avoid them. Hop on the Tube and find yourself a pint of warm beer at a random pub. 

Each time I have traveled to London (3 times in 2013) I found myself exploring new areas, new pubs and meeting all different kinds of people. The best way to see London is like a local. Separate yourself from the crowds and explore the neighborhoods of London.

Where to Stay?

London is expensive (more on that below), and the hotel accommodations are no different. I still recommend paying more to be downtown and near the action, because a long taxi ride late at night will balance out any discount you find by staying far from the city-center. Good luck.
The Ship, Wandsworth

Exploring Neighborhoods

I suggest you buy an Oyster Card and explore the city via the Tube. London reminds me of Chicago, in that each neighborhood has a distinct culture and vibe... each creating a HugeParty in their own unique way.

Here's a quick variety of neighborhoods... But in my opinion:

  1. South Bank for Business Types and Happy Hour
  2. Mayfair for the Pretty People and Ultra Clubs
  3. Clapham or Wandsworth for a regular crowd and pub scene
  4. Camden for the grunge, hipster & metal scene.
Read more here after the jump...

What to Expect? 

  • Warm Beer - Dark beers (stouts, porters and brown ales) are traditionally supposed to be served at room temperature. It is a stark contrast to what we are used to in the states.
  • Music Festivals - Glastonbury, Wireless and so-on... London is known for great music festivals. I found myself at Wireless Festival last summer and caught Snoop Dogg and Justin Timberlake shows. The crowd was lively and it was a HugeParty for sure.
  • Favorite Bars - Here's a quick-fire recap of my favorite bars. The Ship in Wandsworth (great beer garden on the river), Infernos in Clapham (sleazy...sleazy...disco), Mahiki in Mayfair (posh Tiki-bar) and The World's End in Camden (death metal? Yep). London has something for everyone.
  • Cost - The first thing you'll notice is that London is expensive, and to complicate things... the conversion rate is shit. Plan on spending A LOT of money when visiting London.
  • Avoid!!! - Piccadilly Circus, Long Taxi Rides and being a cocky American. Piccadilly is the Times Square of London, it's riddled with tourists and everything is over-priced. Taxis are expensive... a long ride can cost you up to 40-50£ ($60-80). Finally, avoid being a cocky American, leave your USA T-Shirt at home and try to blend in.

Play Tourist Quickly
I canvased London like a tourist in 6 hours on foot, and reached all of the major points of interest. Big Ben, London Eye, National Gallery, Tower of London, Buckingham Palace...etc. I spent the rest of my time engaging the locals and consuming their culture beer. 
See... I Saw Big Ben

Truthfully, you should invest some daytime hours in seeing this side of London (I say the same about Chicago tourism), so wake up early and avoid the crowds. Get to the pub by 5pm.


Although I highlighted the various scenes above, a bit more here. I found it very pleasant to engage with locals at pubs. I relish the opportunity to field questions about "how'd you find this place?", and the typical American/Brit banter is always welcome. Be friendly and approachable, you'll make friends quickly. 

Wine Adventure at Vinopolis

Wine tasting in London? Yes. Make your way to South Bank's Vinopolis. Pay 32£ for a "credit card" filled with wine tasting credits. 

Meander through the various wine rooms, swiping your card and receiving an automated pour of the wine. Swipe, sip, repeat. This is a very informative and fun way to learn about wine and get tipsy. Watch out... they have an Absinthe sampling room too!

Travel Quote?

"We wander for distraction, but we travel for HugeParties." -Hilaire Belloc

Justin Timberlake Show, Wireless Music Festival, London

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  1. Great bloody tips on discovering London. I have a horrible British accent as well, but that is the nice thing about blogging: no one can hear. I am off to find out who the heck Hillaire Belloc is.

  2. looking to cut costs? stay at hostels... they vary in degree of cost, sleaziness, and amenities. we stayed at "the generator" http://generatorhostels.com/en/destinations/london/# and some other hostel that i don't recall the name of...

    at the generator:
    cheap rooms
    cafe available
    internet available (no idea if i paid for this or not)
    in-hostel bar/club - they had 1 bp pilsners (this was in 2004...)


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