Let the Locals Show You Around London

There are literally thousands of guide books written about the city of London, detailing the history of the city as a whole, or zooming in on certain facets of its’ story or particular districts. Reading books of this kind is an excellent way to prepare for your stay in London, and to make sure that you don’t miss anything, but there is one way of getting to know London on a much deeper level, and that’s to go on a walking tour guided by a local. The kind of tours in question concentrate on small corners of the city, and are given by people who have lived there for years, and so will be able to tell you about the quirky facts, secret corners, hidden side streets and cunning shortcuts which only a local would know about, and which the guide books so often ignore. Walks of this kind, what’s more, can be tailored to suit your individual needs, pairing you with a local who has personal knowledge of a subject you might be interested in, such as history, sport, architecture or street art.

The organisation which runs guided walks of this kind is known as Global Greeters and was founded in 1992 in New York, when a woman named Lynn Brooks decided that there should be a way of showing visitors to New York the city as she knew it, which meant introducing them to smaller shops, friendly locals and quirky neighbourhoods. The idea caught on to such a degree that it is now active all over the world, with every walk being hosted free of charge by a local volunteer who is proud of their city and wishes to show it off in the best possible light.

When you book a walk with a global greeter, you are able to tweak and alter it to exactly meet your needs. The walks can cater for groups of up to six and, when booking, you can detail any particular interests you might have in order to ensure that these are covered in the walk. It’s also possible to highlight ant accessibility issues you or a member of your party might have, and also to ask for a walk which is guided in a language other than English. In short, you can work with the Global Greeter organisation to create a walk which is exactly what you want it to be.

The areas of London which are currently covered by the Global greeting network include Camden, Stratford, Greenwich, Epping Forest, Woolwich, Green Street, Eltham, Canary Wharf and the Docklands, Hackney, St Katharine’s Dock and Wapping, Hoxton and Shoreditch, Brick lane and Spitalfields, Newham and Walthamstow. As can be seen from this list, the scheme covers many and varied parts of the city, from the woodland and bridleways of Epping Forest to the multicultural vibrancy and street art of Brick Lane. After going on a walk guided by a local who has been steeped in the atmosphere of a certain district for years, you’ll genuinely feel as if you know the place like someone who has lived there.

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London through the Ages

One of the many facets of London which draws in visitors from all over the world is its’ rich and deep sense of history. This can be seen in the very layout of the streets themselves, which is eclectic, haphazard and mixed in a sharp contrast to the straight lines and grid patterns to be found in more modern cities such as Paris and New York. Simply walking the streets is a lesson in history in its’ own terms, before even mentioning buildings such as the Tower of London and the Palace of Westminster.

London has changed immeasurably over the centuries, since it was first established as a trading post by the Romans, and these changes are detailed in countless books, and articles which chronicle the dramatic social, architectural and financial upheavals which have led to the city’s modern status as one of the most important in the world. One excellent and more entertaining way of delving into the London of the past, however, is to enjoy some of the literature which has been set in the city over the years. In many of the examples, the city becomes almost a character in the story being told, and the fact that the examples date back as far as medieval times means that a complete picture of the development of London can be pieced together.

Samuel Pepys Diary – Samuel Pepys. Pepys was a naval Administrator and Member of Parliament in the 1600’s who, for a decade, kept a detailed and highly readable account of life in London. As well as the details of day to day life in the capital, Pepys was on hand to record eyewitness accounts of events such as the Great Fire of London and the Great Plague. It’s possible to read his descriptions of certain streets whilst still walking along those same streets and noting that very little has actually changed.

Vile Bodies – Evelyn Waugh. Set in 1920’s London, this novel revolves around the lives of a group of people described as ‘Bright Young Things’. These were the rich and feckless young men and women who were the equivalent of today’s It Girls and Party Animals and the novel captures the essence of London as it started to become a truly modern city.

Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens. Almost all of Dickens novels are set in London, and the city becomes a character in the stories being told, with Dickens determined to chronicle and attack the terrible conditions which poor people of the time were forced to live in. Oliver Twist, with its’ workhouses, gangs of thieving children and squalid drinking dens is an excellent example of his work.

The Secret Agent – Joseph Conrad. This is a tale of spies and terrorists set in 1886, but which has strong contemporary resonance. The agent of the title is attempting to infiltrate and undermine a gang of anarchists determined to wreak havoc on the streets of the city.

Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle. Probably the only fictional character to have his own museum in London, the detective Sherlock Holmes is as popular today as he has ever been, and though Doyle’s London of swirling fog, horse drawn carriages and cobbled streets has changed beyond recognition, the image of the city which he created endures and appeals.

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Experience the Warm Welcome of London

In survey after survey the United Kingdom is listed as being one of the friendliest tourist destinations in the world, welcoming people from all over the planet with a degree of hospitality not found in many other places. There are various reasons for this, to do with the nature of the tourist industry in the UK and, more importantly, what might be called the British personality, the way in which the people of the country, on the whole, are tolerant and welcoming of others.

Although the city of London has something of a reputation as being daunting and not so welcoming, this has got more to do with its size and the sheer number of people crammed into its’ streets and building, than any reality likely to be encountered during day to day interaction with people. One of the reasons for this, it has to be admitted, is sheer necessity; tourism plays a huge part in the economy of London and the UK as a whole, and a vital percentage of this appeal lies in the warm welcome that people feel they receive. It’s not as if London were some sun baked Mediterranean island which can rely upon the white beaches and crystal clear waters to bring people back year on year. On the contrary, the British weather, even at the height of summer, is often notoriously unreliable, and it is the experience of visiting London, as a whole, which will resonate in the mind of tourists and encourage them to come back again. This extends from the way in which local people engage with visitors, to the service received in shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels. It’s no coincidence that all of this falls under the umbrella title of the ‘hospitality industry’, since making people feel truly welcome is the ultimate aim of the tourism business. There is a difference, however, between the somewhat forced ‘have a nice day’ welcome that people are often presented with when visiting a country like America, and the warmth of a London welcome, in that the welcome in London may be more understated but it will definitely feel like it is a genuine expression of how the other person feels, rather than something they feel they have to say.

Another key part of the friendliness which people feel when they visit London can be put down to the British sense of humour, which tends to be understated, often self-deprecating, but always inclusive. Strike up a conversation with your waitress, bar man or the person serving you on a market stall and you’ll find that they are almost always more than happy to stay and chat for a while, and that the conversation will be laced with jokes, quips and laughter.

One of the interesting points to make about British hospitality is that it is often expressed by people who aren’t, themselves, actually British. Huge numbers of those who work in the service industry have come from overseas to make a home and life for themselves, and yet are just as likely to offer a warm ‘British’ welcome as someone who has lived here all their lives. Perhaps they’re replicating the way they have been made welcome, or perhaps there’s just something in the air or water which naturally encourages the warmest of welcomes.

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London Nights Out With a Difference

The city of London is a popular family holiday destination for people from all over the world, with its parks, museums, playgrounds and attractions such as the London Dungeons, but there is another side to the city which marks it out as a destination for grown-ups. There are few places in Europe that can boast nightlife to rival London’s, whether you’re looking for a club, cabaret, restaurant  theatre, pub or something which manages to combine elements of them all into on unforgettable package.

For many people the perfect night out in London consists of a meal in a West End restaurant followed by a visit to the theatre to take in one of the many hit plays, musicals or comedy performances to be found there, or perhaps taking in the show first and then discussing it over some delicious food. Amongst the best restaurants within easy walking distance of theatre land are Le Garrick, Imli Street, Café des Amis and the Menier Chocolate Factory. The last of these is actually a theatre and restaurant combined, built inside a renovated chocolate factory. The menu is changed throughout the year to suit the show being performed and they offer a special Meal Deal which includes food and a ticket. Of the others, Le Garrick is situated close to Covent Tube station and serves fine French food in a convivial atmosphere, Imli Street, in Soho, offers an innovative Indian tapas menu, whilst Café des Amis is tucked away in Covent Garden and offers affordable French cuisine including delicious bar snacks.

Of course, a meal and a show is a traditional night out, and that’s exactly what many people are looking for, but one of the most intriguing things about a city the size of London is that it offers plenty of what might be termed ‘alternative’ nights out, in venues which have been designed to be more than a little bit unusual. Below you’ll find just a couple of these wild and wonderful places:

The Ice Bar London – 31-33 Heddon Street,Mayfair
The Ice Bar, unbelievably, is exactly what it sounds like, a bar where everything – the walls, the bar, the tables and the glass you’re drinking from, is made out of pure ice. The temperature is maintained at a constant -5 degrees and guests are supplied with their own hooded cape and gloves to keep out the chill. Sessions in the Ice Bar itself are limited to 40 minutes with the price including a specially themed cocktail, but you can then retire to the more conventionally heated Below Zero, the venue’s lounge bar and restaurant.

Evans and Peel Detective Agency – 310c Earls Court Road
The novelty of this venue hits home before you even enter, as you first have to locate the secret doorway on Earls Court Road. Once inside, a ‘detective’ will guide you into a recreation of a 1920’s Prohibition drinking den, complete with cocktails in tea cups and beer served in brown paper bags. A truly unique and ward winning experience which will make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.

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The Best Ways to Sightsee in London

Upon first arrival, London can seem so large, crowded, noisy and bustling that the idea of exploring it will seem exhausting just to think about. There are fewer things more enjoyable than sightseeing in London, however, since virtually every corner of every street brings some iconic and famous building, statue or landmark into view. There are several different approaches to take towards sightseeing in London, and the following are just a few suggestions:

It sounds too good to be true, but it really is the case that one of the best ways of enjoying sightseeing in London is simply to set off on foot. If you’re situated in the centre of London, near to the West End, Hyde Park or Soho, to choose at random, then you can simply set off on a whim and walk wherever the mood takes you. Carry a map with you, not to dictate what direction you have to go in, but to be able to check out just what all the fabulous buildings which you’re bound to see actually are.

Bus Tours
Many bus tours run through the centre of London, with one advantage being that lots of them operate on a hop on hop off basis, meaning you can join when you like, pay the set price and enjoy a tour with a guided commentary by an expert on the city.

Walking Tours
Whilst walking on your own is undoubtedly rewarding, especially when you stumble across some unexpected treasure like London’s only surviving Roman wall, it is also possible to book special themed walking tours which concentrate on a specific area or historical theme and are guided by an expert in the subject. Some of the most popular include the Jack the Ripper walking tour, which explores one of the most famous unsolved murders of all time in the streets where it actually took place, and the Museum of London ‘Welcome to London’ tour, which is a perfect introduction to the city.

Bike Hire
The streets of London are equipped with self-service bikes for hire at a small cost. Simply pay for a release code and you’ll have access to the bikes for the next 24 hours. During that period, each individual 30 minute ride will be free of charge, with longer trips amassing small charges. Provided you keep yourself safe, riding a bike is one of the most satisfying ways of exploring the streets of London.

If you want to really splash out and enjoy a unique view of the city, then treat yourself to a bird’s eye view with a helicopter tour. The helicopters take off from Battersea heliport and then fly along the Thames, hovering over the likes of Battersea Power Station, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Shard and the 02 Arena.  Prices start at £199.

River Tours
Sightseeing boats and ferries run up and down and across the Thames throughout the day, offering a unique perspective on the city. For a more exhilarating and adrenaline fuelled ride, you can book a trip down the river on a speedboat, enjoying a journey of between 20 and 75 minutes at white knuckle high speeds.

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Enjoying London on a Budget

London is the capital city of the United Kingdom, and, like most capital cities it is a very expensive place to live, work or enjoy oneself. Many people are put off visiting London, indeed, by its’ reputation as being the preserve of the rich or at least the fairly well off, but this would be a mistake, since the city offers much in terms of entertainment and attractions which are either inexpensive or even completely free of charge. The following is a small selection of the ideas which you might like to combine in order to put together your cut price trip to London:

Visitors from many other countries are often surprised to discover that the best museums and galleries in the centre of London don’t even charge for entry. This means that is costs absolutely nothing to gain access to fantastic collections including historical artefacts from all over the world, hands on interactive exhibits which kids will love and some of the finest works of art ever created. Amongst the best are Tate Modern, the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Natural History Museum. Any one of these would provide a day out in their own right.

One of the biggest expenses when you’re staying in London can arise from the simple necessity of keeping yourself fed and watered. Even ‘cheap’ chain cafes can cost more than you’re used to in your home town. For delicious but affordable snacks, head to Camden, where the stalls on the market and next to Camden lock sell delicious street food from around the world which is not only tasty but often extremely healthy as well.

Areas such as Oxford Street, Mayfair and Kensington are packed with designer boutiques and flagship department stores, but it’s possible to shop in London without breaking the bank. Markets such as Portobello Road, Brick Lane and Spitalfields offer the chance to track down bargains both old and new, whilst the Petticoat Lane Sunday market offers designer goods at knock down prices.

Remember that children under 15 travel free or at a reduced fare rate on buses, trams, the Tube and over ground railways. Purchase a Travel Card at the start of the day and you’ll have unlimited travel on bus, tube and train throughout, something which will save a large amount of money as you spend the day criss-crossing the city.

One of the most popular means of taking in the sights of London is to book a ride on one of the many open top sightseeing tours which run throughout the city. If you’ve got two or three children to take with you, however, the cost of a trip like this can soon mount up. There is a way to organise your own mini sightseeing tour, however, and that’s by taking a ride on just the right bus route. The Number 4 bus, for example, will take you past landmarks such as Waterloo, the Houses of Parliament, Fleet Street, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Barbican. The number 88, on the other hand, will give you a view of Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Tate Britain.

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Would just a Wedding Ring ensure Safety for Women who Travel Alone?

Times have changed and safety has become a big question. There were times when women were never let alone anywhere, whereas, now, they tend to travel alone, more frequently, than with a male companion. Today, most of the women work. This requires them to travel from place to place. Though women have become all brave entirely, their safety has never been ensured since the olden days. While sexual abuse as it is called in most of the European countries, it is known as rape, in a few other continents. The names might differ, but one thing has just remained the same- women being harassed.

At schools, colleges, workplaces, or even at the markets, women are at the risk of being harassed by lustful men. Sexual abuse is more evident, especially when women are found to be travelling alone. That is when, men tend to attempt to take advantage over the loneliness of a woman. So, here comes the question- do solo woman travelers have to pretend to be married, in order to ensure their safety?

It is assumed that, women who are married, are prone to less danger than those women who are single. This statement can be looked at, from two different perspectives. From one point, wearing a wedding ring, or showing that you are married, might keep you away from danger. When someone tries to get close to you, you could probably pretend that your husband would be coming to pick you up, or you are receiving a call from him. This may give a hint to men, that you cannot be harmed. On the other hand, wearing a wedding ring, though it may even be a fake one, might induce some men to indulge in theft, and they may end up stealing the ring. Yes, that is how the society has changed!

Humans are unique, they are different. No two men behave alike. Sometimes, it may so happen that, men, irrespective of whether women are married or not, might harm women. To certain men the marital status of a woman does not matter at all. They would only seek to quench their thirst. In such cases, abuses are inevitable, and a wedding ring or indicating the marital status would be of no favor at all.

It would be advisable, for women, to learn self-defence or carry peppermint sprays, while travelling, in order to protect themselves. Also, as part of a protective measure, never wear minimal clothes; always try to cover your body as much as you can, especially when you are travelling alone. Also, never travel in any cab or bus or train that is entirely surrounded by only men. This would prevent yourself from being put in a hypothetical situation. Protecting yourself is always in your hands.

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Why London is Worth Falling in Love With

You may have read about London, seen it in films, or even heard others’ experience, visiting the city. But, have you personally visited the city? Looked at its beauty, and fallen for it? If you have not been to London yet, then make sure, you spend your time there, this holiday season. You may have wondered why people mostly tend to sing songs, in praise of London. But until you experience it, it is very difficult to understand why.

There are many more reasons why London is the best.

English is Widely Spoken
English is the most commonly spoken language. To survive in London, it is enough if you are able to communicate well in English. Also, people in London, are found to be very formal. Their frequent use of the phrases, such as, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, etc, have only been depicting the way they show respect towards others. With English spoken everywhere, you would certainly not get the feeling of being alienated in some Greek land.

Good Climate
The climate of the city is cold most of the time, and the coldest during winter. For those, who want to experience winter at its best, visiting London is a must. Going on a walking tour, during snow, would make you experience the best moments in your life. The snowfall, rains are some of the best moments that you would love to enjoy, with your loved ones. The winters though cold, are certain to tempt any person to go out for a lovely tour around the city. And, for summer, it is the best time to go sight-seeing. For those who want to take their love for an enchanting honeymoon trip, London is certainly the best place!

Enchanting food
Breakfast in London, is completely the English way, comprising of pork, baked beans, porched eggs, and lots of meat. Fish and chips are the most loved snack here! The people of London are probably diet-conscious, because they take in many salads, which even include meat. There are several restaurants, offering a wide variety of food. You could have some mouth-watering experience, dining in London hotels. In London, it is literally mandatory dinners be accompanied with beer or wine.

Lovely travel experience
One of the best features of London is their tube trains. Almost over 200 years old, this is the first rail service started in the world. These trains are available everywhere, making travel a cakewalk. Not to forget, the Red Bus services, which are not only reasonable in rates, but are also fast enough, to help you reach your destination in a few minutes.

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The Onerous Task of Travelling with Kids

Kids are the delicate darlings, in every family. They are the ones that require most of the attention, for their needs and demands keep changing every minute. In addition, kids have to be taken care of, every moment. It takes a lot of time, for kids to adapt to a new environment, especially while travelling. As young blooms, they do not get used to new places or a surrounding, immediately. Some kids get super excited, at the very idea of travelling, but then, there are a few, who begin to frown. The likes and dislikes of every kid, varies largely.

In certain families, travelling, with a newborn baby, is totally out of question. The habits of a baby could definitely affect the activities of the parents. In certain cases, travel is made to be abandoned, until the child grows old enough to adjust to a new environment. Hence, it is important to plan simple trips that would suit the body conditions of the kid, as well as not affect the fun in the trip.

A simple trip would be that, which is family oriented, consisting of fun games for kids, as well as amusing for the elders. In addition, it is necessary to ensure that your trip does not contain several places to visit on a continuous basis, so that the child does not feel it difficult, to travel along. Planning trips with complications, such as mountaineering, adventures is certainly a bad idea, especially when you have young kids.

It is very important to carry baby care needs and plastic bags, especially, as it is very common for children to fall sick, while travelling. It would be advisable to take the baby for a check up, to find out if he/she has any allergies, before travelling. Beware of the climate of your holiday spot, and pack your baby’s clothes, accordingly.

Where you are going to stay, is what matters the most. You must plan your place of accommodation, in accordance to the baby’s needs. If you are staying at a hotel, make sure that there is a childcare service to take care of your child, when you are unavailable. Hotels, these days, have nannies who would take care of the babies, when their parents need to go out. The food habits of the children must be given the maximum priority. Even the slightest change in food, can affect their intake of food. You can take the advice of your travel agent, and book hotels, accordingly. Specifying your needs about the food and services, at the time of booking, would avoid further troubles, at the last moment. Though kids are complicated, as in the case of their needs, but travelling without them is like missing the liveliness in the trip.

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How to Manage the Credit Card Loss while Travelling

Safety has become, not only a concern, but a big question mark, too. Nothing is assured safety, these days, from a pen to a gun, everything is at stake. However, all that matters to you is the extent of safety of tour valuables. You probably are travelling by bus or train, immersed in deep thoughts or a song by your favourite artist, and, Alas! You find your credit card to be missing. More than stressing upon what is to be done next, people will only tend to blame you for being careless, or might suggest precautionary measures to avoid such accidents, thereafter.

Of course, losing your card unexpectedly, would make your heart skip a beat, but being left speechless is not the right action to be done. Once you become aware of the loss of your credit card, immediately, take your mobile phone, and ring up the card issuer, no matter where you are, and acknowledge them of the loss, and ask them to block your card. To do this, you might have to remember a few details, such as your card number, pass code, etc. In addition, it would be advisable to follow-up with a letter, stating the incident of loss of card, with every necessary detail, requesting them to block or cancel your card.

Once you have reported to the issuing company, wait until the month end, or request them for a bill statement, in order to review the transactions that have taken place, to find out if transactions have taken place, without your knowledge.
The next instant step to be taken is to file a complaint in any of the local police stations, in case, along with your card, your wallet or other valuables are being stolen, too. Sometimes, this may not help you in retrieving your card back, but it will, in most cases, make you get to know as to whose hands it has gone to, and if they have attempted any fraudulent practices, using your card.

Get in touch with TransUnion or Equifax, to report the theft. Letting them know about it would enable you to increase protection for your credit card profile, by placing a fraud alert. This would ensure the security and safety of your further transactions, in the future. Especially when you are abroad, or outside on a holiday, you need to rush to the respective embassy, and report to them, so that they can assist you, on the event of any such mis-happening. They would connect you to someone you know, who would be able to send you some cash, for emergency purpose.

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