Summer in London
Summer is high season for London, and tourists from around the world are everywhere. Why? It isn’t just because everyone has school holidays. In the summer’s long, sunny days, London glows, the trees and gardens flower, and the world’s most wonderful walking city is at its best. Everything possible moves out of doors—festivals, concerts, theater and dining. If you want to find a haven from all the crowds, however, head over to Marylebone and Regent’s Park.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: London’s Top 10 is a wonderful guide for exploring this “fashionable and elegant inner city area.” From the London Zoo to Madame Tussauds (reserve your tickets in advance), you will have a fabulous day wandering through this part of London.
More relaxed and more hip than its southern neighbor, Mayfair, Marylebone has the small streets and mews that speak of Georgian and Regency charm. Its High Street is carefully managed by the DeWalden estate (ancestral holdings still own most of the land rights in London), eschewing where possible typical chain stores and keeping a nice balance of local and international boutiques. The lanes off High Street hide a button shop, a ribbon and trimming shop, and French Sole—purveyors of Jane Winksworth flats. Stop in for a fabulous pedicure at Margaret Drabble before you slip your feet into those new flats. Then wander a bit further along the road to the Nordic Bakery to see the locals lolling about over outstanding cappuccinos chasing very decadent cinnamon buns. The atmospheric Daunt Books commands prime street frontage on the High Street.
If you’re there on a Sunday, make sure to visit the farmer’s market in the parking lot behind Waitrose, and then swing by the cheese room La Fromagerie to sample a few cheeses you’ve probably never heard of—but will fall in love with. They keep strict limits on how many people can be in there at one time—too many bodies raise the carefully calibrated temperature. So be prepared to wait in line during which you can ogle the other artfully displayed (all oh-so-country) comestibles. Right next door is the Ginger Pig, one of the newly chic artisanal butchers around London.
If you have time, don’t miss Chiltern St. that runs parallel to the High Street. This street has a wonderful concentration of bespoke wedding boutiques, a shop devoted to Scotch, a handmade jewelry store, an antique Indian instruments store, unique and chic men’s boutiques and a surprising number of shoe stores offering large and narrow shoes from women. All in a single block, charming Victorian block.
If you are looking for a real respite, continue north to Regent’s Park. This most quintessentially English of urban parks provides a whole world of outdoor activity in a single green oasis. Originally planned by the Prince Regent (later George IV), it is a Regency masterpiece, planned part for the public not just the elite. That tradition continues today. Any weekend day the playing fields are occupied 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. with teams of children to adults playing football, rugby, cricket and even lacrosse. There are playgrounds for children, boats to take out in the lagoons and ducks and swans to feed and the London Zoo sits on its northern perimeter. Great tip from DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: London-“Rowing boats, tennis courts, deck chairs can be rented,” so you can plan to spend the day!
Don’t miss the Avenue gardens, fabulously planted formal gardens on the park’s southeast corner. The broad walk is the perfect place to stroll the park end to end and watch the rest of the world promenade by—literally people from every country from the fully veiled to the barely covered. Then, swing through Queen Mary’s Rose Garden—the beds of bushes in full, heady, fragrant glory go on and on.
If you have time and change to spare, take in a play at the Open Air Theatre. Most summers they offer three different productions from drama to musical. Just be sure to bring something warm, a rain coat (umbrellas block the view) and your sunglasses because in any given show you are likely to be wet, cold and hot in quick succession. The show goes on rain or shine, and it is a wonderful way to take in the theatre.
When you are tired and the day is winding down, grab a bottle of bubbly and a couple of glasses and join the crowds on Primrose Hill just to the north of Regent’s Park. From there you can share the sunset over London watching the city from Canary wharf west toward Heathrow go from light to dark with twinkling lights. It may just be the most memorable sight of your trip.
Article contributed by long-time friend of Wearever, Stephanie C. Guyett. Stephanie is an expatriate who has lived with her family in many places around the world, and currently resides in Shanghai.
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