Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Take me to the circus – the London way

After writing about no elephant island, I started wondering whether there are many places with misleading names to tourists everywhere and I realised London has its own fair share of them. When I first moved to London, I found the naming of tube stations very interesting and entertaining. “Elephant and Castle” for example sounds like an amazing place– if you ever had to get off there though (not many people would do so voluntarily) you will realise it doesn’t do its glamorous name any justice. Seven Sisters has no more sisters than any other station and although Mile End sounds like the end of the world, you will realise half of the central line is still to come after Mile End.

Two places that do live up to their names, although not in the sense most non-native English speakers might think are Oxford and Piccadilly Circus. While most of us Europeans think of artists, clowns and maybe elephants, a circus can also be “a rounded open space in a town or city where several streets converge” and this is what you will find at the London circus. Lots of streets, lots of people and lots of shopping. As I am not the biggest shopping fan myself (Indiadam might disagree with that), I will not be writing a shopping guide for central London but thought I would share a few places around Oxford and Piccadilly Circus I have learned to like despite the tourist crowds over the years.

One quick word about shopping though – Lillywhites is a big sports warehouse right on Piccadilly Circus and in a year when the Pound/Euro exchange rate is a bit more favourable you can get some good deal there – everything is always on offer and then have an amazing collection of football shirts which I always enjoy browsing through.

Regent street is the main street connecting Oxford and Piccadilly circus and is as busy as a shopping street can get – however it is very famous for its Christmas decoration and has a lot of decent shopping. During the summer, quite a few Sundays become traffic free for “Summer Street” which makes it a lot nicer to walk around and they also do sponsored days through the NFL or Magnum which are quite fun.

I however prefer walking the side streets like Carnaby and Kingly Street where the shops are maybe a tiny little bit less main stream and no cars! A nice place for a break is Kingly court which is hidden away between Regents and Kingly Street – take a look at the shops on the various levels and if you feel like it, pop into Camellia’s tea house on the top floor for an English cup of tea and a piece of cake of if you feel more greedy a proper afternoon tea (though I still struggle to understand the English love for cucumber sandwiches).

If you prefer venturing West rather than East towards New Bond Street there is a nice little lane called Avery Row which feels like a long way away from Regent Street with its art galleries and I particularly enjoyed stopping at Evergreen café – nice and relaxing with yummy bites to eat.
Walking down Piccadilly towards Green Park, it is also worth dropping by Fortnum and Mason – don’t think you can go wrong with a nice pack of tea for Christmas or a birthday and they really have an amazing offer in very pretty and colourful tins which are also nice London souvenirs. Walk 10m further and you come to the cute little Piccadilly arcades where I now have to mention the Maille mustard shop. Through Indiadam’s great Foodie connections, we once had a mustard tasting evening session there and even people who didn’t like mustard enjoyed the different flavours. If you want to splash out, you can buy some Truffle mustard for £30 or one of the very pretty gift sets they have (also a good Christmas present – I miss the Christmas feeling here in Mumbai so I think about it even more now).

When I was in London, I always loved the variety of museums, shows and plays London has to offer amongst lots of other cultural highlights. The Royal Academy of arts is just opposite Fortmun and Mason and always worth checking what is one there when you are in the area.
If you feel hungry or thirsty after a day at the circus, I would recommend leaving the immediate circus area and heading towards Covent Garden – a lot more choice and even though it’s very busy as well it probably is a bit less touristy if you know where to go. But more on that when we come to Mumbai and London gardens. But again, don’t be fooled – no garden at Covent Garden.

So as different as Mumbai and London might be, as a tourist you might be deceived by the names of places. As a general rule, sadly places with elephants don’t have elephants.

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