Around Leicester Square. London, UK.
Everything that isn’t within walking distance is easily accessible as the transport system, either on buses, or via the Underground, is excellent. And the taxi drivers are as good as auctioneers at spotting a raised hand, even in the middle of a crowd!
As usual I arrived at London Bridge Station, then I caught an Underground train on the Jubilee Line to Waterloo, and a Northern Line train to Leicester Square.
There are several exits from the station, which can bring you out on either side of the road, so if you want to follow my route, just ask for directions, or carry a map. They’re usually free around the stations. And there are signs above the exits.
I went to Chinatown first. Walk through the giant Chinese archway and you’re in a different country.
All the shops, restaurants and supermarkets are Chinese. Even the street signs are bi-lingual.
I was in China last year (see articles) and it was like being whisked back there.
Small wrinkled old Chinese ladies shuffle along, bent with age, pulling their shopping trolleys behind them.
Groups of people pause for a chat. The tempting smell of cooking wafts all around me as I walk, pausing to stare at strange things hanging up in restaurant windows.
A lot of the restaurants don’t have English translations of their menus. They’re the ones that I want to investigate one day!
Sometimes I eat in a noodle bar on the outskirts of Chinatown. Everyone sits in a row on the wooden benches, after choosing three dishes from the buffet selection. It costs just £5 and it’s always a huge plateful, fresh and really delicious!
I like to watch the chef making the noodles. He stretches them out on all his fingers, puts them together, and stretches them out again, like a rapid game of cat’s cradle. Then he rolls them up in small balls. I’ve no idea how they stay separate!
One lunchtime, we ate there, then had a dinner in a 4-star hotel nearby. That meal came to over £200. Guess which meal was the best? Answers on a £5-note, addressed to… No, only joking! But good quality doesn’t always depend on the price.
Talking of price, The Ivy is a few streets past the station. This is where a lot of celebrities love to eat. Goodness knows why, judging by the outside. It’s really ugly and uninviting. Maybe that’s the idea; to keep the riff-raff out. I like a view from the window when I’m eating, not just people-watching inside!
Leaving Chinatown, I passed a theatre. There must be at least 15 within walking distance of Leicester Square! But it does pay to shop around for tickets. There are ticket shops everywhere.
I passed Garrick Street, and turned into Bow Street.
There are loads of courtyards and alleyways in London and I love to branch off to explore them, so off I branched, and re-appeared in Long Acre.
It’s a good road for shopping. The trouble is in London, I always have a lot of walking to do, so I can’t carry much.
At the end of the road, past Drury Lane, is a pedestrian area called Great Queen Street with a huge imposing building on the right that looks like a church. It turned out to be the Library and Museum of Freemasonry. Worth a visit another time.
Retracing my steps, I walked down Drury Lane. I passed another theatre, of course, and there at the end was Covent Garden Market.
It’s a beautiful old building. There’s an interesting selection of shops, and various entertainers scattered around.
I followed the sound of opera and found a man with a magnificent moustache and a powerful voice singing Italian arias, accompanied by a tinny tape.
Outside was a man perched on the top of a ladder that wasn’t leaning against anything. He was trying to explain to a little French girl how to throw him three clubs for juggling. He was very entertaining, but I had to rush away to the loo across the road.
Oh, shock, horror, it was 50p to go in and I didn’t have enough change! (It’s 30p at London Bridge and there’s a change machine.)
I yelled, ‘Help!’ and immediately a lady emerged from her office. Laughing, she let me in while she counted out some change for me.
Note to self; always make sure you have a selection of change when you’re in London!
Out the loo and turning left, I walked to the top of the road and turned left, eventually ending up at Piccadilly.
Apparently it’s been called Piccadilly since 1626, when the land was bought by a tailor who made his money making piccadills, which was a type of fashionable collar.
It was midday, and a clock on a pedestal started chiming, with lots of figurines on top and lower down, round the middle. It’s a Swissair advert. It went on for about five minutes. I loved it!
Past the clock, on the left, is an English shop selling lots of tacky stuff that people give you as souvenirs and you stick in the loft, with music blaring out the door
Outside was a man dressed entirely in Union Jack-patterned clothes, waving a couple of Union Jacks.
Remember the quiz show What’s My Line? when someone would come on and write their occupation on a blackboard, then the panel of celebrities would try to guess it?
Well I wonder what Union Jack Man would call himself? I can think of a few suggestions!
On the right is a huge wall of neon adverts, which is very famous, and in front of me was the statue of Eros.
Erected in 1892-3, it’s an aluminium statue on a bronze fountain.
There are various urban myths about where Eros’s arrow was pointing, and where it would land if it was shot, but you can read about all that online.
I was disappointed to see a wobbly fence erected round it. You’d think if they’re going to fence off something as famous as that, they’d make it look a bit more attractive, like a wrought iron fence, for instance, especially with the wear and tear it gets with everyone leaning against it!
Shaftesbury Avenue is across the road, with Ripley’s Believe it of Not! on the right.
This is a privately-owned museum, and it isn’t free to go in it.
Keep walking, past several more theatres. If you turn right at the end, you’ll walk for about 10 minutes and come to Trafalgar Square. But that’s a subject for another day.
I was stopping for lunch at the Belgian restaurant Leon de Bruxelles on the corner, at Cambridge Circus, and that’s another story too!