Monday, February 23, 2009

See : Covent Garden

Covent Garden has always been touted as one of London's premium tourist attractions. Having worked in the area for many years, it had always had a slightly different appeal to me. For me, Covent Garden was mainly about its abundance of bars and places to eat (the essential destinations after a hard days work). For this reason, Covent Garden is and always will be one of my favourite places to spend time in London.

However, a new job had found me relocated to Victoria and since then, I haven't really been back (terrible, I know). With a few hours to kill, I decided to reacquaint myself with the area, go for a walk and put together a virtual guide of my favourite places to visit in the area.

1. CyberCandy - Heading down from Leicester Square, m
y first stop is CyberCandy. For those with a sweet tooth, this is a must visit. Its basically a global sweetshop with a startling amount of sweets and comestibles from all over the world. From A&W Root Beer (my favourite), a 4 pack of Duff Beer (yes, really) and even Caramel Freddos to Tootsie Rolls. Even for those without a sweet tooth, this place is worth a visit just to see the oddities on offer.

2. The Plaza - This is probably what most people think of when they think of Covent Garden and rightly so. The Plaza is very much the centerpiece and houses many little gems which are not to be missed. Firstly, you have the Apple Market. Here, various vendors from near and far come to sell their wares. Yes, it sounds slightly tacky but there are lots of little stalls to browse where much on offer is handmade and its a good way to while away the minutes. If this isn't your thing, there are many other more mainstream shops lining the plaza where you can go and spend your hard earned cash. If your all pooped out from shopping, you can always catch your breath by watching one of the many entertainers dotted around, varying from musicians in the basement to stuntmen outside in the courtyard. If "entertainment" isnt your thing, theres always the famous Punch and Judy pub for a pint with great views over the plaza. And last but by no means least is Ben's Cookies. This is a little cookie stall which sells probably the priciest cookies you will ever eat (normally weighing in at over a quid each!) but God are they good. With a huge variety, its definitely worth splurging out once in a while. When I passed by, it certainly didnt appear as if we were in the midst of a credit crunch. In fact, people were queuing out the door just to get their hands on these cookies!

3. Maiden Lane - Maiden Lane is located towards the southern end of Covent Garden and contains a variety of bars and restaurants. Favourites include The Porterhouse, a maze of a pub, serving a variety of ales and
lagers and Rules, the oldest restaurant in London, serving traditional English classics (admittedly at a price!).

4. Other interesting places - To be honest, Covent Garden is crammed full of places to go and see, go and eat and go and drink, listing all of them would be a pretty massive task. Therefore, im just going to list a few of my other favourites. If
you like shopping, there is a good mix of designer shops mingling with boutiques north of Covent Garden tube station and along Long Acre, this area alone could take up a whole day. Good places to go and grab a meal include Wahaca, which serves Mexican street food (you have to try the pork scratchings with guacamole, it tastes a lot better than it sounds). If you dont fancy eating in, Kastner and Ovens (located at the north end of Floral Street) does good home cooked take away food. If your looking for a good pint, theres always the Lyceum Tavern located on the Strand. This traditional pub serves a decent pint at ridiculously cheap prices (its a Samuel Smiths pub after all, man in the box!). Finally, a tip an old friend once taught me, make sure you look up. You miss so much of London keeping your eyes at street level. One of the best tips anybody has ever given me.

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