London is a city that has so many tourist attractions that one visit to Great Britain’s capital city is just not enough. It takes several visits to London just to scratch the surface of all London has to offer in tourist attractions! I would advise visitors to London to get off the beaten tourist path and check out these four attractions that aren’t as widely publicized as, let’s say, Big Ben, The Tower of London, Hyde Park, etc:
The Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park: Slice of Urban Nirvana
In 1985, Buddhist monks and nuns completed a 100-foot high pagoda in north central Battersea Park which overlooks the Thames. Seeing the pagoda in the early hours of the morning is one of the best treats for the eyes and the soul! Battersea Park was once a cesspool of human depravity when it was called Battersea Fields. In 1858, this spot became only the second public park opened in London to serve as a respite from the surrounding urban sprawl.
Address: South side of the Thames, between Albert Bridge and Chelsea Bridge. Underground Station: Sloane Square, then catch a Number 137 bus southbound from Sloane Square to the first bus stop south of the Thames called “Queenstown Road-Chelsea Bridge”. No Admission charge.
Battersea Park website: www.batterseapark.org
Visit the state of Virginia While in London!
Each year, over four million people visit the world famous National Gallery in London. Yet unbeknownst to virtually all the masses is that while they walk past a statue of George Washington in front of the gallery giving little thought to it, they are missing a chance to be in the state of Virginia. As the story goes, in 1921, some prominent citizens from Virginia wanted to give a statue of one of America’s founding fathers to the British people, but it was known that George Washington had no desire to set foot on British soil. So ingeniously, a hole where the statue was to be placed was dug up. It was then filled with a plot of Washington’s native Virginia soil. Go to the statue and put your hand on the grass that the inanimate Washington resides on, and you will be carried back to old’ Virginia in the midst of the never-ending bustle of central London.
Address: National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. Underground Station: Charing Cross.
Sir John Soane’s Museum: Eclectic London
For architectural and antique buffs visiting England’s capital city, no trek is complete without going to the very eccentric home of one of London’s most famous architects, Sir John Soane. Soane designed the Bank of England and many of the city’s lesser known churches and galleries. Here are just a few of the bizarre sights that can be found in this former domicile turned virtual time machine: on the ground floor in the Monk’s Parlour, grotesque, Gothic casts reside as well as a crypt that contains the Sarcophagus of Seti; many priceless artifacts from ancient Egypt, the Orient, and from the Medieval and Renaissance Periods; seventeenth century, eighteenth century, and Neo-Classical sculpture.
What really leaves its imprint on the visitors who tour this place is a picture gallery on the first floor (second Floor in America) where the panels are covered with paintings; paintings that when Soane got tired of what he was viewing in this room, he would just unfold the walls and out came a new set of panels that contained more paintings, including some by Hogarth. This room has to be seen to be believed! As of March 2006, certain sections of the museum are undergoing renovations. Still, the open parts of the Soane venue are well worth the visit!
Address: 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Underground Station: Holburn. Admission: free for groups/individuals of six or less. Website: www.soane.org
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese: Great Name, Great History, and Great Food!
The Cheshire Cheese is one of the city’s best hangouts to grab a hearty British meal because of its storied history and ambience. The building dates back to 1667, when it was rebuilt after the Great Fire of London a year earlier. It has survived fifteen British monarchs since then. The site was once the locale of a 13th century Carmelite monastery, whose vaulted cellars survived the great blaze of 1666. Many narrow halls and staircases lead to the eating areas; as a result, this maze-like layout even confuses the barristers and journalist patrons, who primarily make up the clientele.
The prices are reasonable and diners will have the satisfaction of eating at the former hangout of Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens. Here’s a sampling of the dishes served up here besides the traditional British dishes of Ye Famous Steak and Kidney Pudding or Fish and Chips: For Appetizers, try the Crab and Coriander Potato Cake or the Duck and Port Pate; and for the main courses, feast on the Roast Loin of Pork with Apple and Cranberry Stuffing or the Poached Salmon Salad with Cucumber Mayonnaise; for dessert, how about some Spotted Dick (boiled pudding with fruit bits)?
Address: 145 Fleet Street, Wine Office Court. Underground Station: Blackfriars. Website: www.yeoldecheshirecheese.com