Monday, August 22, 2011
I have written of my personally-recommended tour of London, and this has been welcomed by friends abroad. Now, with a day trip here from the continent so easy, and if booked early so reasonable, I have compiled a day tour for those in mainland Europe who live within easy reach of a Eurostar station. Here it is.
Arriving into St Pancras Station from the Eurostar platforms, turn right and then right again for the Piccadilly Line Underground. This you will find after almost leaving the station. Descend the escalator. Take the Westbound line.
Get off at Leicester Square Underground Station (7 minutes). Leave the station by Exit 2 that says to Leicester Square and Chinatown.
Turn left as you leave the station and pass by Newport Street to turn left into the alleyway called Newport Court. This leads to Newport Place (a square) which you leave at its top left corner to enter Gerrard Street beneath the Chinese arch. You are now in the heart of Chinatown.
Turn right into Macclesfield Street, passing de Hems Dutch pub, to cross Shaftesbury Avenue into Dean Street. You will come to Old Compton Street. Turn right and immediately on the left is Patisserie Valerie (25 minutes from Eurostar).
At Patisserie Valerie take coffee and relax to enjoy a mille feuille (custard-filled) or, for more substantial breakfast fare, eggs Benedict.
You are now in Soho.
Turn left as you leave the café, and then branch right into Moor Street (past rental bikes) to cross Cambridge Circus, bearing right into Charing Cross Road.
Pass Leicester Square Underground Station, from where you arrived, and Cranbourne Street (leading to Leicester Square and with the excellent wine bar, The Cork and Bottle, hidden away in a basement on the left).
Carry on down-hill to pass the National Portrait Gallery (free) to Trafalgar Square with St Martin’s in the Fields church on the left and the National Gallery on the right (free) (possibly to see the dog, about which I wrote recently in my blog). Nelson’s Column stands proudly in the middle of the square.
Turn left beside St Martin’s in the Fields church into Duncannon Street. Cross the Strand to the Charing Cross railway Station entrances, where you will turn left into the Strand and then almost immediately right into Villiers Street down-hill.
Walk down Villiers Street, passing Watergate Walk (through iron railings on the left), followed, also on the left, by imaginative Embankment Gardens, to pass through the Embankment Underground Station. Walk up the 42 steps to cross the Thames by pedestrian bridge toward the Festival Hall. This will give you a good view of London and the river. If not wanting to take a gondola trip around the “Eye”, this is a good point for return.
You will have seen the London Eye to the right. Walk to it.
To buy tickets enter a building, as directed, where you will have to queue (this took us 10 minutes in early August). In another 8 minutes you should be in a pod on your way aloft to see an overview of London. This trip around the wheel will take 32 minutes.
Now retrace your steps over the Thames to pass through Embankment Underground Station again and just a bit up Villiers Street, to turn right into Watergate Walk and down steps to enter Gordon’s Wine Bar through a hole in the wall. This is probably London’s oldest wine bar, with the house above it having been the abode at various times of Pepys, Kipling and Chesterton. Take a good look around the bar’s candle-lit subterranean interior before ordering cold dry sherry (from the bottle) (no beer) and some olives. This will be much needed refreshment, as you will have been on the go for some 2 ¾ hours.
Return to walk up Villiers Street, to cross the Strand again, then to take a quick left and right turn up Adelaide Street, with St Martin’s in the Fields church on your left.
Up the slope and almost directly in front of you is the rather small and insignificant Harp pub in Chandos Place. You are here for its English pub atmosphere, its English beer (Hophead recommended) and its splendid sausages in rolls. The information about the sausage fillings will be written up in chalk outside, and also inside on the wall to your right. Order your drink (it doesn’t have to be beer) and sausages. The latter will be brought to you. This is lunch. Try to find space on the ground floor where the action is, but there is more comfort in the duller part upstairs (near the Gents and Ladies).
Leaving the Harp doorway, turn left up Chandos Place toward Covent Garden, keeping to Chandos Place and then Maiden Lane, to pass Rules, London’s most English of restaurants. At the T- junction, turn left into Southampton Street with Covent Garden in front of you. Walk straight through, taking in the fun, the sights of humanity, the trinket stalls and street performers (having a break there if time permits). Continue into James Street to reach Covent Garden Underground Station.
From there take the eastern direction of the Piccadilly Line to King’s Cross/St Pancras – and Eurostar home.