If you watch even thirty minutes of television a day, chances are the royal wedding of Kate, excuse me, Katherine Middleton and HRH Prince William has been mentioned. The top story on CNN News this morning was the boom of tours (where Kate grew up, the schools she went to, the hotel she will stay at for her last night as a singleton) being offered to rip off the tourists currently invading London. Whilst I was not a vacationing tourist, but rather an en-route biz traveler, I put together a visual tour of London and the best part is, its free! If you can’t make it across the pond next weekend to stand among the throngs of people waiting to catch a glimpse of the new princess (and pay $10.00 for Starbucks latte; the exchange rate is killer), get your fill of Britishness here:
Regent Street is the divide between swanky Mayfair on the east and trendy Soho on the west. The street is lined with retail stores and in preparation for the royal wedding, also 5,000 British flags. I lucked out and had great weather, (sunny and 75 degrees!), so everyone was out on the streets and the buzz of the city was tangible:
Similar to its big sister in NYC, Soho London is where the cool, hip and unaffected (think Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen) hang out, especially on a nice day. Filled with cafes, small boutiques and international brands alike, this is the perfect neighborhood to visit on an nice day. After fish and chips, or an espresso, head over the most unusual, and popular store in the area:
What’s in a name? In the case of Irregular Choice, everything. Featuring the weirdest, most unusual and well, irregular shoe styles, this local boutique is a gem among chain stores and is the favorite of Londonites and well-informed visitors as well (notice the odd homage to the royal wedding on the window).
One cannot forget the other big event that will soon take over London, the summer Olympics in 2012. Leicester Square, the English version of Times Square, is currently all torn up as it is being beautified for the big reveal:
What else can we depend on London for other than pomp and circumstance and stealing our favorite blonds (Madonna and Gwen)? Let’s count the ways:
1. A Dry Sense of Humor:
Now, with the 20% value added tax the British government just approved to help dig itself out of financial woes, locals are freaking out about having to cut back to the essentials. For some, what is ‘essential’ may differ:
Yes, this is very important. One can forgo the morning latte, but a lap dance from a trashy girl from Leeds? Not so much.
Finally, I have no explanation as to why Burger King chose this next promotion, in relation to the royal wedding, but it was too good to leave out.
2. Next Generation Public Transit
At 4 pounds per subway ride (about $7.00), commuting through the city can get pretty expensive and unlike NYC, London isn’t central enough to walk everywhere. Driving? Forget it about it, too expensive and the parking situation is maddening at best. So, the local government decided to partner up with Barclays and create a complete bike program which offers anyone, and everyone, 30 minutes of free biking a day. With more than 25 stations located throughout the city, you can pick up and drop off virtually anywhere. Genius! Bloomberg, please pay attention.
Not Sporty Spice? The hail on of the many green cabs offering shared rides without any additional cost. This program is also sponsored by a bank. Noticing a trend here?
3. Great Fashion
I love a man in a perfectly cut suit (Tom Ford, I am talking to you) and if money is no object, the best place to go is Savile Row. The Brits are masters of tailoring and a suit cut to your measurements will leave you ready for even the most high-brow event, like a royal wedding!
Now, if for some reason your invitation to the April 29th nuptials got lost in the mail and therefore a suit isn’t on the top of the list of needs, try COS for something a bit more casual. London is lucky to be among the few cities the parent company of H&M is trying out for this higher end retail concept. The merchandise continues to take design inspiration from the runway (clearly the current styling is reminiscent of Jil Sander), but the quality of fabrics and construction (stitching) is much higher than H&M. Although more costly than its younger sibling, COS is still quite affordable at an average price of $125 for a day dress.
Or, if you are in the mood for the classics, London has those too:
Similar to Central Park in NYC, Hyde Park is the lungs of London. Upon arriving, my car toured me through the park and is was filled with urban dwellers soaking up vitamin E after many months of cold, wintry weather:
Love Hyde Park? Want to live near it? Then this new apartment building with views overlooking Hyde Park is for you. It is also the most expensive in London with the penthouse recently selling for $125 million pounds. That’s almost a quarter billion dollars. Ouch.
Gotta say, I love me some British culture and if weren’t for the fact that my money is next to worthless, I would be packing up NY and jumping across the pond. But alas, I am a few million short for that apartment and I like being close to the park 🙂
Next up in my global report for UpMyAli? China and Canada!