Innside Edition

Lodging is expensive in London. With a weak dollar, it’s practically a luxury good. One hotel that does make an effort to give you your pound’s worth is The Rockwell. Just around the corner from the Earls Court Tube station in Kensington, this stylishly renovated boutique hotel maximizes space without feeling overly crowded. (Remember, it’s London — not Kansas.) Rooms range from £120-200. The New York Times gives it a relatively favorable review. It’s “among a crop of new hotels in the city that are trying to marry high style with (relatively) low cost.” There’s a classy dining room in-house, but there are plenty of places to eat nearby. The Victoria & Albert Museum is within walking distance, just down Cromwell Road. Another advantage? It’s just 13 Tube stops to Heathrow. Also worth checking out is the NH Hotel Kensington across the street

Getting there: Take the District or Picadilly lines to Earls Court.

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Good enough to eat

Great British food can be a real treat. Finding it, however, can be real task. Have you ever seen Kitchen Nightmares on BBC America? Often mediocre passes for good, and terrible passes for edible. Not to mention it can get pricey. One place you can count on is Wagamama. Decent, pan-Asian food in several locations across town. They even have a tamarind chili pavlova for dessert.

Getting there: For the Camden branch, take the Northern line to Camden Town. Walk north along the Camden High St. Turn left onto Jamestown Road. On the Southbank, there’s a branch on Clink Street, in a vaulted archway. Take Northern or Jubilee line to London Bridge. Walk towards the Thames. If you hit Southwark Bridge Road, you’ve gone too far. 

And sandwich chain Pret-a-Manger provides consistently decent sandwiches, pastries, drinks and a place to sit in their shops across the city. The Leicester Square location is good place to escape the maddening crowd.

Getting there: You’ll run into one without even trying.
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Leaving the island

Let’s say you’re hankering for the Continent but aren’t ready for the airport hassle…again. (Terminal 5? Yikes.) Take the train. From London’s St. Pancras Station to Paris’s Gare du Nord via Eurostar and the chunnel, it’s just 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Or let’s say you’re already deep in the heart of Europe. A trip from Zurich to Stuttgart on the Cadillac of the German Rail system, the InterCity Express, takes just two hours and 42 minutes. Check schedules and fares here.

Faces of Britain

The BP Portrait Award show is typically an easy-to-digest affair at the National Portrait Gallery. Craig Wylie look home £25,000 for his winning entry (left) and gets a £4,000 commission. Museumgoers even have a say, voting for the BP Visitors’ Choice award. More of Britain’s finest at the bottom of the post. 

The museum is on the backside of the much larger, slower-to-digest National Gallery, which faces Trafalgar Square. (Pigeons! The pigeons!) But also on the square is a “scandalous” sculpture of a disabled pregnant woman by Marc Quinn. 

Getting there: Northern or Bakerloo lines to Charing Cross, then walk north past St. Martin’s in the Fields.


Modern English

This summer the Tate Modern is featuring Cy Twombly, big street art and urban photography. Could it get any better? Did we mention it has a decent café and plenty of nice restrooms? The balconies are a great place to sit and snack and look at the North Bank. Starchitects Herzog & de Meuron handled the renovation with panache and aplomb. If everyone’s up for it, walk to the museum over the Sir Norman Foster-designed, pedestrian-only Millennium Bridge from St. Paul’s.

Getting there: (Via the bridge) District/Circle lines to Blackfriars, walk to St. Paul’s then south.(Via Southbank) Northern line to London Bridge, walk west along Southbank

 

Courtyard by Foster

“I viewed the morning with much alarm. The British Museum has lost its charm.” So wrote George Gershwin in the song “A Foggy Day” — decades before Sir Norman Foster built the charming new central courtyard. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the courtyard is open until 11 p.m.! Right now, there’s a juicy show featuring American art: “The American Scene features around 150 outstanding prints by 74 leading modern American artists, including George Bellows, Edward Hopper, Grant Wood, Josef Albers, Alexander Calder, Louise Bourgeois and Jackson Pollock.” Really nice gift shops and the ultimate in translation hardware.  

Getting there: Take the Northern line tube to Tottenham Court Road. Or get out one stop earlier at Goodge Street, which has a working elevator instead of escalators, and walk down Tottenham Court Road. 

 

Getting there is half the fun

 

Smack dab in Covent Garden is the London Transport Museum. It’s filled with things that go vroom for little (and grown-up) transport fans. Very good gift shop with a nice selection of posters. The museum is near the Royal Opera House. And while there aren’t any loverly singing guttersnipes out there nowadays, there are usually street performers (fire jugglers, musicians) and a few places to sit and have a snack.

Getting there: Northern line to Leicester Square or Piccadilly line to Covent Garden