After many trips to London, for both business and pleasure, my Day one routine is fixed. Most Americans arrive dead tired after an overnight flight, particularly if, like me, you were in coach. The following suggested itinerary is a mix that includes a dash of royalty, avoiding napping, getting exercise and making all my "nesting" purchases so I can start work (or pleasure) on Day two. For your consideration and modification on your next trip:
• Green Park is my comfort zone, right in the center of everything and great walking area for shops, royal sites and dining. When choosing a hotel, I try to stay near this area. I love the Goring, not quite in Green Park, but very close. It has become very popular after the Duchess of Cambridge, then Kate Middleton, stayed there the night before her wedding. The Mayfair, right on Stratton Street is also great. Recently totally renovated, it is very chic now. It is also right beside Sainsbury grocery store so you can check in, stock up on munchies and get going. The bathrooms are huge. Unpack, if your room is ready, and get ready to move for the next 8 hours.
• Begin your explorations walking down Piccadilly, all the way to the National Portrait Gallery.
• Reintroduce yourself to British History through the portraits. The Tudors are great, but the Duke of Buckingham (George Villiers, the favorite of James I) is my favorite 'over the top portrait.' Check the picture below, but know it is nothing compared to seeing this huge portrait in person. Trust me.
• Enjoy lunch in the pub right across the street from the entrance to the Portrait Gallery. It is authentic, cozy and serves real pub food
• Walk back down Piccadilly toward Green Park.
• En route, check out the current exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. This is always a fun visit, even if just for the building if not the current exhibition.
• My next stop is at Waterstones book store to get my fix of UK fashion magazines that are so expensive in the U.S. British Vogue, Tatler (absolutely the best gossip and full of British humor as well as fashion), Harpers (name changed from Harpers and Queen in 2005) and Country Life (this is the quintessential UK magazine) are my top choices.
• Further down Piccadilly is the iconic Hatchards bookstore. This is my favorite bookstore in the world, bar none. It has the best mix of current, signed, antique and royalty books. The royalty section is the best for European royalty, then and now. You will need at least an hour here.
• Fortnum and Mason is just a block away, not for tea, but to buy the best dragees (Jordan Almonds) in Europe. Sorry France. These are my addiction and travel sustenance.
• Take a left turn before the Ritz to walk down to St. James Palace. Check the schedule in case you might be there when the Chapel Royal is open for services, usually on a Sunday. Largely ignored by tourists, the history of this chapel is impressive. It was part of Henry VIII's palace, the ceiling is probably Holbein and is dated 1540. Charles I received communion here the day of his execution and more recently, Queen Victoria and King George V were both married here.
• Dinner is always at the Wolseley. Remember to get your reservation about a month in advance. Ask for a table up on the "balcony" so you can watch all the action. Great food, wonderful décor in this converted bank and fun people watching -- this restaurant never disappoints.
• After dinner drinks are perfect at the Ritz. Because it is the Ritz and it is on your way back to the hotel. You can reminisce about all the history that has happened here. I think Winston Churchill might walk in any minute.
• Back to your hotel.
• Ready for bed, having beat the jet lagged need for a nap and physically and mentally stocked to begin your work or travels in England.
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