God dammit, a week in and I am at risk of falling short of my twice weekly posting resolution / goal / whatever. Well folks it may already be Thursday in the UK but by George it’s still Wednesday somewhere so Vancouver, DC and Buenos Aires this one’s for you.
Yesterday Today marks 12 months to the day that I tootled across the pond and what better way to celebrate my Londonversary than by sharing the 12 top tips I’ve learned in that time with you!
Also affectionately known by me as Sh*ttymapper whilst trying to navigate my way around Holborn in search of the nightbus home, more often than not this free app delivers the goods, or rather the directions, when I need to get somewhere fast. You can search rain safe, cycle and walking routes though in my experience the gps tends to go a bit squiffy when you’re on foot. You can also rather handily find out how much your route will cost you before you set off so you can play the bus and Tube off against each other and win. Take that TFL! If you’re feeling flush you can also get a price for your journey via Black Cab.
Speaking of taxis, uber is far and away the cheapest way to get a taxi and you can book and pay for your ride home straight from your smartphone – no cash changes hands at all. The app is free and you can choose along a sliding scale as to which band of car you want to get. A couple of words of warning: Avoid the regular uber taxi like the plague. Anyone can seemingly sign up for this and while it may be the cheaper option there doesn’t appear to be much monitoring in place to standardise the quality of drivers. From personal experience and that of my friends uber x offers better peace of mind and the drivers seem to know where they are going! When you sign up you link your account to your paypal so in that respect it’s a good option if you are in need of a taxi, esp at the end of a night out and you don’t fancy the night bus. There’s no premium on safety so this app makes it easy to get home safely and, hopefully, swiftly. Use with caution and beware of surges in price in high demand areas! If you want to try it for free (for a journey up to the value of £10,) you can use my promo code: c5d7i. Then, if you’re only visiting the city as a one off, you can always just delete the app. If you choose to keep it you can share your own promo code with friends and family and you’ll get up to £10 uber credit for every person who signs up with it. Spread the love!
3 Time Out
Time Out magazine is an institution in this city and, if you’re early enough on a Tuesday morning, you can pick up a free copy at most Underground stations. It’s full of the latest pop-up restaurants, gallery openings and exhibitions worth seeing though due to it’s huge popularity anything featured in it tends to get booked up almost instantly so act fast! You can also sign up for email alerts and get some great offers like four cocktails in Mayfair for £16. Sounds like a fun night to me!
4 Walk on the left, stand on the right
When using the escalators pretty much anywhere there is an unspoken rule that you must stand on the right hand side or walk up them on the left. Trust me, you will have a better day. Should you choose to ignore this piece of advice simply stand left and turn around. You will undoubtedly find a stoic, silent type shuffling on the step beneath you, head bent to their phone, bitching furiously about your audacity on Twitter.
5 Take in a West End show
I’ve been to see a few over the past year and without doubt my top two for a sing-along are Memphis and Made In Dagenham. Both shows will leave your spirits soaring; you will laugh, you will cry and you’ll leave with new found gumption and a spring in your step. I went to see both recently when my mum came to visit and they are a great choice for a spot of mother-daughter bonding though audiences were a mixed bag of folk toe tapping in unison. If you find yourself at a loose end on the day you want to go see a show take yourself to Leicester Square and you will find lots of ticket booths that want your business. DO NOT buy your tickets from the first booth you come across as they can all vary in price. Have a look around or pop into the theatre box office as they may have a good offer. Another tip is check out lastminute.com – i’ve got fantastic dinner and show deals there before. Time Out is also currently running brilliant offers on both shows and a whole host of others here.
6 Not into musicals but love theatre?
If you fancy something a bit different check out The National Theatre – a London institution where every theatre actor dreams of treading the boards and you can pick up a ticket on the day of a sold out show for as little as £5, so long as you don’t mind standing. It’s a bit of a punt as it’s only valid for selected shows providing all other tickets have sold out on that day but definitely worth giving a go. You can also nab £15 Travelex tickets for NT shows too – bargain! Click here for more details. I also recently saw The Play That Goes Wrong which Time Out is also running a great offer on. Have a gander at my review – if side-splitting laughs are your thing this one’s for you.
7 The best museums in life are free
If you’re in the market for a bit of culture but don’t fancy splashing out for the privilege head along the South Bank to the Tate Modern. It’s free to see the permanent exhibitions, is great for people watching and coffee and is interactive so perfect for children. They (and you) can even create an image for display on the interactive Bloomberg screens on fancy looking etcha sketches.
8 Dennis Sever’s house.
So good I went back again mere days later. Read about it here.
9 Spitalfields Market
Since you might already be in the area if you visit Dennis’s house you may as well take a stroll over to Spitalfields market which is in my humble opinion one of London’s nicest markets. It’s a great spot to while away a few hours boasting a variety of great souvenirs for yourself and your friends from affordable (and, of course, not so affordable) artworks to fashion, trinkets, jewellery and more. It’s also a covered market so if the weather’s not on your side it won’t really affect you. There are also lots of lovely little independent boutique shops there as well as plenty of places to sit down and refuel with good food and drink.
10 Take a trip down Columbia Road
Head East to Columbia Road on a Sunday to take in the sights and smells of London’s loveliest flower market. If you’re local and want to spruce up your home on the cheap head around 2pm when trade is nearing its close and you can haggle for cheaper blooms. Along the road there are lots of little holes in the wall selling great coffee and some gorgeous wee shops. My favourite one is Jessie and Buddug The Shop. Run by two Welsh artists there’s a quaint and homely feel to their shop which showcases their own creations along with others they’ve handpicked from people and places they love. Artist Rob Ryan also has a shop along this street which I’m desperate to get to. If you don’t know his work I recommend a beautiful wee book my mum bought me called A Sky Full of Kindness. You can even get it signed by the artist himself. It’s a heart warmer alright!
11 Revisit your childhood with a ride on a Boris Bike
Love him or loathe him Mayor of London Boris has well and truly made his mark with the installation of blue Boris Bikes around the city. I for one am a fan though I’m the first to admit I’m not great on them in traffic. If you’re as nervous as I am on two wheels in busy traffic you can still have a go in the parks. My favourite is Victoria Park in East London. Popular with families, dog walkers and runners alike the paths are wide enough to accommodate the very wobbliest of cyclists and if you fall off and scrape your knees you can always head to The Pavillion for a brownie and some tea to make it all better. To keep the cost down dock your bike every 30 minutes so you don’t have to pay more than £2 for the whole hire time.
12 Invest in an Oyster card.
It will save you waaay more money than buying individual or day tickets.
So there you have it, one year down, goodness knows how many more to go. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this past year and are as excited about what 2015 has in store as I am!
To celebrate my Londonversary I’ve been picking up some bits and pieces from my travels for a special giveaway. Check back on Sunday for details!
Til then, happy hump day!