Leslie Ehm is
a script doctor, TV presenter and ‘happening woman’
who lives in the U.K. Since she knows ‘groovy’
London like the back of her hand, we asked her to choose
her favorite tube stops and to walk-us-about the neighbourhoods
they're found in. Leslie writes...
London Underground is such an efficient travel network.
In under one hour, it can carry you from one end of
the city to the other. And, it can be great fun, too.
Just about every station has its own personality. Tottenham
Court Road Station, used as a bomb shelter way back
in World War Two, still features its original wooden
escalators (circa 1900). Baker Street Station is decorated
with Detective Sherlock Holmes' famed silhouette. All
the best buskers can be found at Piccadilly Circus Station
-- super entertainment! One of the loveliest fruit,
veg and flower stands is located outside the City's
Temple Station, and King's Cross, where all tube lines
intersect, is reminiscent of Grand Central Station at
rush hour. The Tube is truly the heart of the teeming
human machine that is London.
shopping, food and fun, the following are my top five
tube stops as well as an intro to the neighbourhoods
they're found in. From the best bookstores to bra buying
and a woman's day spa, they're yours to enjoy. Why not
print this info, pack it and use it to plot a pleasure
course via the Underground on your next London visit.
HILL GATE (Central/District/Circle lines)
Gate is one of London's funkiest, multi-cultural
and sought after areas. Pop stars, actors and designers
live there and the shopping is fantastic. On Saturdays,
check out Portobello Market (Portobello Road
W11) where you can find anything from antiques, one-off
designer duds, kitsch bits and pieces as well as items
for serious collectors of just about anything. For lunch,
pop into 192 (192 Kensington Park Road) offering
nouvelle cuisine and super celeb spotting. Or, if you're
lucky, you might find a spare table at Books for
Cooks (4 Blenheim Crescent W11) which, as well as
being an incredibly well stocked book shop, is also
an eclectic and delicious restaurant (only 5 tables
and lunchtimes only). For more glamour, end your day
with drinks at Beach Blanket Babylon (45 Ledbury
Rd, W11) where you'll get a real taste of the local
flavour. This area can eat up an entire day.
SQUARE (Circle/District lines)
Square Station sits at the head of the infamous
birthplace of punk - the King's Road. Once a haven for
Malcolm McLaren and his Sex Pistols, it is now a must-see
for shopaholics and foodies alike. For an old style
department store in true British tradition, pop into
Peter Jones or, simply window shop the King's
Road from one fabulous end to the other. En route, stop
into famed restaurateur Terence Conran's Bluebird
Food Hall. This fab emporium boasts wine merchant,
bakery, patisserie, cheesemonger, butcher as well as
beautifully packaged delicacies that your friends will
be proud to display in their kitchens. It's a great
place to eat, inhale and pick up a few presents. Further
up the block, try my fave for a do-it-yourself dinner.
Tiger Lil's is an all-you-can-eat spot where
you pick your ingredients from a fresh bar filled with
veggies, seafood and meat. Select your very own seasonings.
Then watch as your choice is cooked in giant woks atop
great, big oil drums. Yummy!
who's anyone frequents Knightsbridge, so to experience
London at its most elegant, make a stop at this station.
The famed Harrods is here, but I, personally,
prefer Harvey Nichols (109-123 Knightsbridge
SW1), part department store, part fashion statement.
To be seen, have a late lunch at its 5th Floor restaurant
and then shop for designer clothing until you're ready
to drop. For a lesson in how to buy the perfect bra,
stop into Rigby and Peller (2 Hans Rd SW3), where
owner June Kenton will offer the same advice she dishes
out to the Queen when she fits HER bras! And my tip
for the perfect London accessory? Pick up sunglasses
from Cutler and Gross (16 Kensington Green SW1).
They're not cheap, but if they were, the likes of Kate
Moss, George Michael and Madonna wouldn't be wearing
them and... they do.
CIRCUS (Piccadilly line)
from the obvious, Piccadilly Circus is also the
closest station to Soho, my favorite part of London.
It's nothing like the red light district it once was,
rather it's become the centre of London's media world.
Almost every film and television company has offices
here and the trendy folk walking the streets are testament
to its cutting edge. Wander down Old Compton Street,
Soho's gay-friendly strip, where beautiful men populate
the many street cafes. Or, any time of day or night,
turn off onto Frith Street for a divine cup of coffee
at Bar Italia (22 Frith Street), a true Soho
institution and super people watching site. If the sun
is out, walk to the bottom of the street where you'll
find Soho Square, the only patch of green for miles.
Offices spill out at noon and you'll find an amazing
cross section of Londoners enjoying their lunch or catching
a few rays. Eat at Melatil's (22 Windmill Street.
W1), a relatively inexpensive Malaysian / Indonesian
restaurant where the first-rate quality has remained
the same for years. If you're suffering from a cold,
one bowl of their super hot Tom Yam soup will clear
you up in a jiffy! And if you need to check your email,
cyber caf� Webshack (15 Dean Street) is comfy,
inexpensive and they serve a lovely cup of java. Enjoy!
GARDEN (Piccadilly line)
the largest open food market in London some 100 years
ago, Covent Garden is now simply a tourist attraction
housing an arcade of tepid shops. But this area is a
secret treasure drove of sites so be sure to scratch
the surface when you check it out. Wander down Neal
Street for truly eclectic shopping. Turn into Neal's
Yard for a tiny holistic haven where you can have
your mind, body and spirit soothed via massage, crystals,
aromatherapy, Chinese herbs or health foods shopping.
For those looking for more traditional pampering, walk
to Floral Street and venture into The Sanctuary
(12 Floral St WC2), a women-only day spa that is the
epitome of luxury. Loll around in your white fluffy
robe, swim naked in the tropical pools, indulge in your
choice of beauty treatments, or simply take a sauna
or steam. This place is the ultimate cure for jet lag!
And if London is only one stop on your worldwide tour,
stop in at Stanfords (Long Acre, WC2), the world's
finest travel book and map shop. It's an education!
girl-to-girl advice for subway survival...
- Living in
the city, I've learned the rules and regulations of
the London Underground (both written and unwritten).
Although its not necessarily considered a ‘dangerous’
place, as in any big city, its very important to be
aware of what's going on around you. Think about your
route beforehand. Try to appear as if you know what
you're doing so unsavory types won't pick you out
in a crowd. Watch your purse and protect the goodies
you just picked up shopping on the High Street.
- Late at night
(most stations close somewhere around midnight), it
can get a little scary when you discover you're on
a platform or about to board a car all alone. Most
Londoners have learned to walk along the platform
as the train arrives and than get onto a car that
already has passengers in it.
- Pubs close
at 11p.m. Taking the tube at 11:30, especially on
a weekend, can be a somewhat harrowing experience
unless you know how to deal with drunken louts in
suits. These types are harmless but they can be loud
and obnoxious. Time your tube travel accordingly.
- Smoking is
illegal anywhere on the subway system. The penalty
is a very stiff fine besides, it's not good for your
- London's ten
Tube lines are colour coded to help you chart your
route. You can pick up a free Tube map at any
underground station -- simply ask when you're buying
- A helpful
telephone number to know is 0171 222 1234.
This is an invaluable, 24-hour infoline for both buses
and the Underground.
- Finally, Tube
staff should be able to help with directions but unfortunately
they're often nowhere to be found when you need them.
Be sure to pick up an A-Z (street atlas) so
that you can establish which exit you should use when
leaving the station. Many stations have several exits
-- take the wrong one and you can get hopelessly lost
above ground. Happy ‘Undergrounding’,
weather words to make you smile...
Rain is one thing
the British do better than anybody else.
Marilyn French, The Bleeding Heart (1980)
England is an
aquarium, not a nation.
Rita Mae Brown, Southern Discomfort (1982)
In this country
called England there are only two seasons, winter and
Shelagh Delaney, A Taste of Honey (1958)
Editor's packing note:
Except for a few weeks in the summertime, it's normally
very damp in London so plan to dress in layers. Pack
shoes with thicker soles and, please don't forget your
umbrella. I recommend the ones that have an aluminum
frame -- so light, you won't even know you're carrying