I’ve been in London for a week now and last week I met up with an old school friend in Green Park for a picnic. Funnily enough, on Monday I had a text from two other friends suggesting the same thing, so I went back (slightly more prepared in terms of picnic food, too).
I know picnicking in the park isn’t an original idea; far from it, I would imagine, but it was free (or cheap if you consider the cost of the food) and the park really is a great one. As the official website states: ‘Green Park is quite different to its neighbour St James’s Park. It is more peaceful, with mature trees and grassland’. (http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/green_park/) Considering it’s surrounded by quite busy roads (Piccadilly, for one) it really is surprising about how quiet it is there. My friends and I pondered more than once about how you could forget you’re even in the centre of London.
Built in 1668 as a deer park, it overlooks Buckingham Palace, which was built much later in 1837. On both occasions I was there, the park was quite busy – not so surprising for a Sunday afternoon, but perhaps more so on a Tuesday afternoon just after lunch. One of the nice things about the park is that there are deck chairs for hire, too. There are also public toilets located at the Tube station which is quite handy and saves you having to try and find a pub or cafe nearby, as well as a small cafe serving refreshments.
Yesterday, I had a spontaneous visit into Central London again, this time to meet a friend in Holborn. We wandered over to Covent Garden, one of my favourite places to stroll round (apart from having to dodge all the tourists, particularly in summer).
This area of town is great to while away an afternoon; there are enough shops to look around, lots of lovely cafes and street stalls – Dinner Jackets has been there for ages, located by the Transport Museum and they do a mean jacket potato – and more often than not, there are street artists performing magic tricks or miming to the delight of passers by. (Or not if you’re my friend Adam, who gets freaked out by the street statue performers)
One of my other recommendations is to walk up Neal Street to find Neal’s Yard, a small courtyard tucked away but offering an array of shops and cafes (Neal’s Yard Remedies probably the most famous), most with a vegetarian focus.
Here’s a tip – I ordered a hot chocolate with ginger, (which was one of the best hot chocolates I’ve ever had and was GBP2.50) from Neal’s Yard Salad Bar, but if you order it to take out rather than sit in you’ll save yourself a pound, and you can still sit in the courtyard, just on the central green benches rather than the proper tables. People watching there was a good way to spend half an hour or so.
We also went to check out the Central Perk pop-up down Carnaby Street, but the queue was HUGE (it rivalled the line outside Topshop at it’s NYC opening) so we instead had a look round Kingly Court, which I’d never seen before. A three-storey courtyard conversion it has loads of quirky shops and a great cupcake place in there. Wish You Were Here, a load of pop-up shops from New York’s Lower East Side have taken over some of the shops, so they’re worth a look too. Whether you can afford to buy anything on a budget is another matter…
Finally, I treated myself to some dinner at the Diner on Ganton Street (just off Carnaby Street) – it wasn’t so great for my budget, but the food was very good. I went for some authentic cheese fries to remind me of my time Stateside; it also doubles up as a bar later on in the evening.
One thing to note: Central London is quite easy to get around on foot. The Tube stations are generally much closer than they look on the map, so there’s no need to get public transport between a lot of places – Leicester Square and Covent Garden are down the street from each other, for example.
This is great if you’re on a budget!
Until next time….