THE Rugby World Cup is about to kick off for almost a month-and-a-half of international oval ball action.
If you’re off to the British capital for the Rugby World Cup and plan hanging around for a few days , then Conor Power has the lowdown on how to fall in love again with London town.The games at Wembley and the Olympic Stadium mean that hordes of Irish rugger buggers will be heading to London as will the inevitable hangers-on, friends and possibly partners with a less passionate take on rugby but a burning desire to soak up the pre and post match atmosphere and to savour the joys of the British capital.
For those who are capitalising on the London games to sneak in a min-break, here are a few ideas…
Cruising through London is the most relaxing way to get through it. There’s no hurry and you get to see the city as it would have been seen by the majority of visitors from the pre-industrial age. Regular boats leave from Westminster Pier with tour commentary included. When you get to Greenwich, just pause opposite the stationery Cutty Sark and have a refreshing drink. The ambiance here is real old sailors’ London without the rough sailors; www.citycruises.com, www.thamesriverservices.co.uk.
If there’s one thing the English know about (besides rugby), it’s gardening. The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew does a great job of making the garden visit a mixture of entertaining asides and huge formal spaces. If you don’t have all day to spend here, then be sure to prioritise the Treetop Walkway, taking you on a walk at tree-top level. Their “land train” (a green van pulling green carriages) will save on shoe leather to get you around the huge site. Telephone +44 208 332 5655, www.kew.org.
It’s the home of British opera and ballet and there is always a classy kind of buzz going on around Covent Garden. You’re guaranteed to be smiling as you walk in to catch whatever lunchtime showing is on offer. Maybe you’ll even be tempted to stay on until evening time and watch the opera. For listings on what’s on in the Covent Garden area, see www.visitlondon.com.
While I was in That London I saw That Bubbly Cloud thing in That Covent Garden pic.twitter.com/uFD9VwiCl9— Jamie Smart (@jamiesmart) September 1, 2015
Situated mostly under a railway bridge at Southwark, this is the Mammy of London markets, with a mouth-watering, jaw-dropping array of things you can eat. The atmosphere is friendly and frolicky, with Cockney wit the dominant background flavour. Open every day except Sunday and Monday; www.boroughmarket.org.uk.
You’ll find it a lot more cosmopolitan in ambiance than the screen version of the eponymous Hugh Grant film. As a focus on where to go, the delightfully ancient and charming Electric Cinema at Portobello has afternoon and evening shows in a turn-of-the-century atmosphere that’s a galaxy away from the mega-bucks superplexes. www.electriccinema.co.uk.
Book your table at Humphry's and experience the Modern British cuisine in a beautiful setting... pic.twitter.com/y7niqkroLH— Stoke Park (@StokePark) September 1, 2015
This is the mini escape from the city extraordinaire. From Paddington station, take the train to Slough (about 15 minutes and £18 return) and a very short taxi ride later, you’re in a luxury hotel surrounded for almost as far as the eye can see by manicured countryside. You can just about make out Windsor Castle in the distance. Don a pair of dark glasses and look like a film star to blend in. Its proximity to Pinewood Film Studios have made Stoke Park a favourite location for two Bond films, Bridget Jones Diary (it’s where they get away for the weekend and go rowing on the lake) and several other productions. Telephone +44 1753 717171; www.stokepark.com.
There is a brilliant collection of classical artwork from all eras and artists in a central location overlooking Trafalgar Square. Their entire collection of Monet paintings are all together in a stunning display that will be open all through 2015 while a new exhibition of Goya portraits begins midway through the Rugby World Cup on October 7. When you have had your fill of the great gallery, don’t forget to pop next door to the National Portrait Gallery. Telephone +44 207 747 2885; www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
'A Wheatfield, with Cypresses' was painted in September 1889, when Van Gogh was in the St-Rémy mental asylum. pic.twitter.com/uJFI8Y1ytu— National Gallery (@NationalGallery) August 31, 2015
There is Buckingham Palace but the prices for the main Royal Residence can be rather high and demand is also at a premium. This palace of democracy is easier to get into and is a fascinating tour. If there is a UK resident amongst you, you might be able to tag along on a free tour that all British voters are entitled to by organising it through their local MP. Telephone +44 207 219 4114, www.parliament.uk.
It being England and all, there are many places to have the traditional afternoon blow-out that is innocently entitled “tea”. Located in Mayfair, Sketch is a more funky and less stodgy kind of place to partake in afternoon tea. Don’t worry though — just because it has a quirky groove in its 18th-century building doesn’t mean that they don’t go full-blooded for the whole overly-sweet experience. They just do it with a bit more panache and fun than most places. Sketch, 9 Conduit Street, London W1S 2XG, Telephone +44 207 659 4500, www.sketch.london.
In a city with a million different stories, there is a huge range of London Walks to choose from. You might shirk away from a Jack-the-Ripper Tour, but what about a London Ghost Walk, a Harry Potter Walk, an East End Street Art Walking Tour or even a Soho Food Walk? There is also a tour of London’s hidden waterways; did you know that a river flows under Buckingham Palace? Me neither. www.walkingtoursoflondon.com, www.freelondonwalkingtours.com.