Posted by: nancycurteman | October 14, 2012

5 Memorable London Experiences

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I’d like to share five of my most memorable London experiences. They are not the usual tourist experiences most people think about when they visit London. They are quite unique. This uniqueness is what makes them so memorable. Here they are in no specific order.

 Turner at the Tate
The Tate Britain Art Gallery houses British art that dates from 1500 to today. It is the home of the world’s largest collection of the works of 18th/19th century painter Joseph Mallord William Turner. It is an unforgettable experience to gaze on Turner’s magnificent paintings such as The Shipwreck, Sunrise with Sea Monsters and Rain, Steam and Speed. Turner emphasized luminosity, atmosphere, and Romantic, dramatic subjects in his art. In later paintings, his compositions became more fluid, suggesting movement and space. Turner’s emphasis on color and light anticipated the French Impressionist movement. It is worth a trip to the Tate Britain just to see the Turner exhibit.

Chelsea Physic Garden: A Hidden Gem
The four-acre Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanic garden. It was founded in 1673 by the Society of Apothecaries. Its proximity to the Thames river creates a warmer microclimate allowing the survival of many tender, non-native plants and enables them to survive the cold British winters.  This “living museum” has one of the oldest rock gardens in Europe constructed of stones from the Tower of London, Icelandic lava, fused bricks and flint. Chelsea also boasts the largest outdoor olive tree in Britain. Themed beds include pharmaceutical plants, perfumery, aromatherapy, textiles and dyes and the Garden of Edible and Useful Plants. Spending a few relaxing hours in this lovely green haven will refresh even the most exhausted tourist.

Off West End Theatres
Fringe theatres are what the English call London’s small theatres. The ones located in the West End of London, where most of the big commercial theatres are located, are also called Off West End. These theatres can vary, with seating capacities of around 40 up to around 600. Fringe venues range from well-equipped small theatres to rooms above pubs. The performances range from classic plays, to cabaret. I love the fringe theatres because it is such an intimate experience to be so close to the actors. In addition, they are less expensive and easier to get seating. I’ve booked a play in the afternoon and attended in the same evening. There are a large number of fringe theatres which provides easy access and lots of variety.

Westminster Abbey: A tour of British History
I’m a great fan of Queen Elizabeth the first and Mary Queen of Scots. They are both buried in Westminster Abbey. To me it was worth the visit just to see their tombs. The original Westminster Abbey was founded by Sebert, King of the East Saxons, who died in 616. Benedictine monks first came to this site in the middle of the tenth century. The tombs housed in Westminster Abbey read like a history of Great Britain. Seventeen Monarchs, statesmen and soldiers; poets, priests, heroes and villains are represented in this World Heritage Site. The coronation of Kings and Queens has taken place there since 1066. Over 3,000 great men and women from almost every century lie in Westminster Abbey. Just visiting the many chapels and reading the names and dates on the tombs will astound you.

Afternoon Tea at Harrods
From a small fruit and vegetable shop employing two staff members, Harrods grew into a four and a half acre, seven-storey giant with more than 5,000 employees and 200 departments. It is a shopper’s paradise. But what I love about Harrods is its afternoon tea—tea that comes from Harrods private tea gardens. Of course there is more than one place to have tea at Harrods but my favorite is the Georgian. After a tiring day of shopping or touring, there is nothing like a refreshing cup of tea. Ask any Englishman. And, tea in gorgeous surroundings accompanied with little triangle cut sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and rose petal jelly, topped off with glorious pastries—well, its nothing less than extraordinary. In order to do justice to afternoon tea at Harrods plan on about 2 hours. Please understand, it is not just tea, it is a heavenly experience.

If you’ve had a memorable London experience, I’d love to hear about it.

More Travel Tips

Isle of Wight: Something for Everyone

The Isle of Guernsey: A Place That Exceeds Expectations

Stonehenge and the Amesbury Archer Mystery

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Responses

  1. Actually, my most memorable experience in London was getting a… shall we say, “unusual” photograph at the Tower. There’s a partial wall there just near the edge of the green where the Ravens have their outdoor roosts, with a walkway about 10-15 feet away from it, elevated with a railing. The say was overcast but calm and pleasantly warm for a November, perfect even lighting for photos. I took a pic of the wall because the wall dates from around (if I remember correctly) 1100 or so. One photo out of several taken in a row with a digital camera, seconds apart, has a strange white mist in front of the wall. I didn’t see the mist with my naked eyes, no one else did, and it’s only in the one photo and nowhere else in my tons of Tower photos. (BTW, you are allowed to take photos inside, how cool) I can’t explain it, but it was a really fascinating treat for the trip.

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    • Meghan, That photo is really interesting. It has a surrealistic touch to it. As a mystery writer, I find the whole idea very intriguing.

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  2. I’ve yet to have my trip to London. But I’m working on putting together a trip to London as well as England, Scotland and Ireland.

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  3. Tea at Harrod’s sounds divine, NC. And I love the idea of fringe theatres where you are a bit closer to the action. Thanks!

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    • The last time I attended a fringe playhouse in London I ordered tea and cookies before the play started. The treats were brought to me on a tray in the theatre at intermission. Don’t know if they all still do that but it was “divine.”

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