New Zealand: A Natural Beauty

Why traipse halfway around the world to New Zealand? Because it’s stunning! And you will have it practically all to yourself! Volcanos, rain forests, glaciers, mountains, bright-blue/green lakes and ocean, lovely vineyards, lush farmland, world-class fishing, white sand beaches, penguins and luxurious lodges. Road trip!

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Rippon Vineyard (photo courtesy of Julian Apse)

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Tunnel Beach, Dunedin (photo courtesy of DunedinNZ)

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Tongariro National Park (photo by Camilla Rutherford courtesy of Tourism New Zealand)

38773AM00: Aoraki / Mount Cook (3754m) and Lake Pukaki in winter. Mt La Perouse (3078m) left, Tasman Valley and Burnett Mountains Range right. Panorama with late autumn colours, Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, MacKenzie District, New Zealand. Photocred

Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, MacKenzie District (photo by Rob Suisted / www.naturespic.co.nz)

NZ is 2/3 the size of California with only 4 million people…that’s 16 people per square kilometer. So when you’re driving around NZ outside of its metropolitan areas, you will encounter no traffic, no competition to see its gorgeous sites, and lots and lots of peaceful space. Exhale…

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miles of undeveloped beaches (photo by Scott Venning courtesy of Tourism New Zealand)

SEE THE SIGHTS 

In preparation for our trip, I consulted with a friend-of-friend, who is a Kiwi (not a pejorative). He whipped out a map of his country and circled the places he thought we should see. He circled practically everything on the map! Message: All of NZ is worth seeing. Take Away: Choose a great hotel from the list below, consult its website’s Activities List, and take daily road trips from your lux lodge.

Canterbury (photo by Elite Images)

The following of NZ’s many sights are tried-and-true by Mimi’s Travel File:

South Island

  • Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park — home of the highest mountains and the longest glaciers…alpine in the purest sense
  • Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers in Westland National Park — While you can walk up to the base of these huge Ice Age glaciers, helicopter up the mountain and walk on top of the glacier. Such a thrill! FJ’s glacier is 100 feet deep and packed with ice that is blue due to lack of oxygen.
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Fox Glacier near Franz Joseph (photo courtesy of Gareth Eyres)

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He-man heli-pilot on top of Fox Glacier: He is wearing shorts because the heliport, at the base of this mountain, is set in a rain forest!

  • Drive from Franz Joseph to Haast along the Haast River and beach — so beautiful!

(photo by Scott Venning courtesy of Tourism New Zealand)

  • Lake Wanaka — lovely hiking and home of the dramatically-situated Rippon Vineyard

Lake Wanaka

  • Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park — dramatic peaks, dark blue water, frequent downpours that create numerous waterfalls

Milford Sound (photo by Rob Suisted courtesy of Tourism New Zealand): We saw nary a cruise ship on our trip.

North Island

  • Rotorua — Mauri central; on the drive from Coromandel Peninsula to Rotorua, you will see mountains, pastures on plains, steep, hilly terrain, sheep, cows, orchards
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Dairy is NZ’s #1 industry (photo courtesy of Helena Bay)

  • Wai-o-tapu (park with volcanic landscapes and the Lady Knox geyser)
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volcanic landscape

  • Lake Taupo (NZ’s largest lake) and Turangi
  • Napier and Hastings on Hawkes Bay
  • Coromandel Peninsula — rolling hills+tropical rain forest+mountains+ocean — the CP has it all! Its Pauanui, Cathedral Cove and Hahei beaches are especially stunning.
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Miles of tropical rain forests with two-story tall tree ferns! (photo courtesy of Whirinaki Forest Park)

  • Bay of Islands (144 islands, beaches, bays, whales, penguins, dolphins, sailing)
  • Heli­copter to Whakaari (White) Island and Mount Tarawera! White Island is sit­u­ated forty-eight kilo­me­tres from the east coast of the North Island and is New Zealand’s only active marine Vol­cano. Land­ing on the island’s crater floor, your pilot will guide you past the steam­ing fumaroles and boil­ing mud pools to look out over a steam­ing sul­phurous crater lake. The steam melted the coating off my mirrored sunglasses!
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Whakaari Island

This could be you, landing in the volcano on Whakaari/White Island! It’s expensive but well worth it. We had the island all to ourselves=heaven.

  • Tongariro National Park — Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a day-long hike with blue and emerald lakes &  a dual World Heritage site, ranked among the top ten single-day treks in the world.

STAY

Here’s where you will want to stay, as these lodges get the most glowing write-ups in the travel media. Small buzz kill: They can be African-safari-expensive.

North Island

Cape Kidnappers Peninsula

Cape Kidnappers

Cape K suite

Farm at Cape Kidnappers suite: I could be happy here!

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dinner at the Farm at Cape Kidnappers

  • Craggy Range (Hawkes Bay) — a winery with attractive cottage accommodations, per Andrew Harper
  • The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs (north end of island) — recommended by Andrew Harper, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Tablet Hotels; website looks beautiful
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Kauri Cliffs Lodge

  • Solitaire Lodge (Lake Tarawera, 20 minutes drive from Rotorua) — recommended by Small Luxury Hotels, Tablet Hotels, and Mimi’s Travel File (we stayed here in 2014)
  • Wharekauhau Lodge and Country Estate (Featherstone) — recommended by Andrew Harper
  • Eagles Nest (Bay of Islands) — recommended by Mr. and Mrs. Smith Hotels and Small Luxury Hotels; website looks spectacular
  • Helena Bay (east coast, between Auckland and top of the island) — recommended by National Geographic Traveler Magazine
  • Hotel DeBrett (Auckland) — recommended by Mr.  and Mrs. Smith Hotels and Tablet Hotels; Auckland is an attractive city on the Pacific (light/bright blue water) with many sailboats, including several America’s Cup past contenders…watched a sailboat race there for two hours during dinner sitting outside at Euro restaurant

South Island

  • Azur (Queenstown) — recommended by Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Tablet Hotels
  • Kinross Cottages (Queenstown) — Travel+Leisure (2016) described it as “simple and tasteful accommodations on a vineyard that also has a popular wine bar.” It’s also relatively inexpensive. (see comment at the end of this post from my friend who just came back from Kinross Cottages; she was not pleased)
  • Blanket Bay (between Queenstown and Glenorchy) — recommended by Andrew Harper, Tablet Hotels, and Small Luxury Hotels
  • Edenhouse (Nelson, Abel Tasman region) — highly recommended by Andrew Harper
  • Te Waonui Forest Retreat (Franz Joseph) — We stayed here. While it is the best hotel in Franz Joseph, it is merely okay.
  • Eichardt’s Private Hotel  (Queenstown) — recommended by Andrew Harper, Tablet Hotels, Small Luxury Hotels, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith
  • Fiordland Lodge (Te Anau) — recommended by Andrew Harper
  • Lake Timara Lodge (Hawkesbury, Marlborough) — recommended by Andrew Harper
  • Matakauri Lodge (Queenstown, southern end of island) — recommended by Andrew Harper, Mr. and Mrs. Smith Hotels, Tablet Hotels and the FT’s How to Spend It magazine
Matakauri dining outside

Matakauri Lodge–The lodges in which we stayed all had great food!

WARNING: Do not stay at Whare Kea Lodge & Chalet (Lake Wanaka), as we did. As I was reaching for my first hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour, I was told that guests were allowed to take only two each (strike one). Dinner was at a long, group table. For two nights in a row, we dined with the owner, which could have been fascinating. However, she talked exclusively about herself  and dominated the conversation (strike two). The small decks outside of the bedrooms are not private at all, so other guests walked right outside of the big glass doors by our bed (strike three)…and we paid the big bucks for this!

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

Lots of good vineyards here! Click through to Tourism New Zealand‘s site for a suggested itinerary. Travel+Leisure (2016) likes:

In addition to being known for its lamb and venison, “The distinctive food and wine culture I found is vibrant — at once deeply rooted and globally attuned — and unexpectedly provided a glimpse of how the county has been shaped equally by its isolation and its transoceanic ties,” per Travel+Leisure (2016). Following is their list of best places to eat on the South Island:

  • Fleurs Place (Moeraki) — “Fleur Sullivan, the godmother of modern Kiwi cooking, draws diners from all over t her marvelously ramshackle seaside spot.”
  • Harlequin Public House (Christchurch) — “This is the place for platters of oysters, home comfort food, and a great list of New Zealand wines.”
  • Olivers (Clyde) — “serves some of the best food around”
  • Rata (Queenstown) — award-winning cuisine
  • Riverstone Kitchen (near Moeraki) — “a prime stop”
  • Roots (Lyttelton) — “a critically acclaimed bare-bones spot”

SHOP

The things to buy here are jade and sheep skins.

When to go: November-April is the best time to visit, though it can rain any season.

One last thing…ATM’s can be few and far between, so stock up on cash!

Horse-Treks

Though neither my husband nor I had been riding since our childhood, we saddled up in NZ and it was one of the most fun things we did on our trip. The huge, open spaces and gorgeous scenery made it soooo relaxing and memorable. (photo courtesy of Farm at Cape Kidnappers)

 

San Francisco Treats

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(photo courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association)

Why has everyone left their hearts in San Francisco? Because SF has it all: water, great food, inspiring architecture, world-class museums, and—most important—style, glamor, romance!

San Francisco at dusk

(photo courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association by Can Balcioglu)

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Bike across the Golden Gate Bridge–It’s a THRILL!
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Golden Gate Bridge (photo courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association)

Afterwards, bike through the Presidio, a park and former military base that’s hilly and gorgeous. Next, bike or walk along the San Francisco Bay through Crissy Field in the Golden Gate Recreation area. You will see people romping with their dogs and children, playing softball, watching the windsurfers, with the water on one side and the dense neighborhoods of San Francisco rising up its hills on the other side of this Bay-side park.

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The Presidio (courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association/photo by Scott Chernis)

  • California Academy of Sciences (Golden Gate Park)–Near the Presidio, the CAS is a great museum! Walk on its rooftop to see the undulating meadow of flowers and native California plants. Its aquarium is a tunnel that you walk through, surrounded by beautiful fish and corals. The CAS is a combination planetarium, aquarium, natural-history museum and a research center designed by star-chitect Renzo Piano to be the planet’s greenest museum.
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California Academy of Sciences (courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association): Check out that roof!

  • BONUS: The world-renowned De Young Art Museum (paintings, sculpture) is within easy walking distance of the CAS, and the Conservatory of Flowers is also nearby in Golden Gate Park. I haven’t been to the CoF but is sounds intriguing and was recommended by Travel + Leisure (2013).
  • Exploratorium (located near the Embarcadero)–One of the most fun and interesting museums to which I have ever been! This is an interactive science museum that is neither dusty nor dry. Go.
  • Museum of Modern Art (SoMa neighborhood)–I am in love with SF MOMA’s GORGEOUS big, new expansion designed by Snohetta, the architects who designed the stunning National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion in Manhattan. Feast your eyes on their creation here…
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SFMOMA (photo courtesy of SFMOMA)

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close-up of SFMOMA facade was inspired by the water and fog SF Bay (courtesy of SFMOMA)

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Note the wall of green plants in the outside sculpture space (photo courtesy of SFMOMA)

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gallery at SFMOMA (courtesy of SFMOMA)

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SFMOMA’s expanded space is so big that it allows room for this wonderful indoor maze! (courtesy of SFMOMA)

BONUS: One of SFMOMA’s three restaurants is called In Situ and overseen by a Michelin 3-star chef, who recreates the signature dishes of the best chefs from around the world!

  • Seasonal Sight: If you happen to be in San Francisco the last week in June, check out the Gay Pride Parade. Coincidentally, we were there at that time and it is a sight to behold. Everyone goes around saying, “Happy Gay Day!” The SF Pride Celebration and Parade has been around for over 46 years. There is a fair amount of bare skin, so no wonder it takes place in June!
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The 40th Annual San Francisco Gay Pride Parade where the theme was “Forty and Fabulous” (Photo by Nader Khouri)

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY!

San Francisco restaurants are especially good because so much fresh food is grown year-round locally. For your eating pleasure, I have thoughtfully organized the best SF restaurants by neighborhood in this spreadsheet (san-fran-restaus). These restaurants are Michelin-starred and/or were mentioned in articles in various travel magazines stashed in  Mimi’s Travel File. The following are my favorites from our trip in September 2016.

Breakfast

  • Forget $50+ room service! Instead, wander down to the Ferry Building and have a delicious breakfast at one of its several restaurants. “This is what foodie heaven looks like: dozens of local purveyors, hawking everything from cheese to chocolate to cupcakes line the arcades of this historic, waterfront building,” per Travel+Leisure (2013). Sit outside and watch the boats bob around the bay. It’s cheaper, better, faster than awaiting room service. If it’s chilly, the FB’s interior is also nice.
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Ferry Building (photo courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association)

We went to Boulettes Larder in the Ferry Building twice in three days! Sit outside at Boulettes Larder‘s informal cafe tables & soak up the sun.

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Boulettes Larder’s small dining room, facing San Francisco Bay (photo courtesy of Mariko Reed)

Lunch

  • Wayfare Tavern (Financial District)–good food, fun ambience, lively
  • Tadich Grill (Financial District)–is the oldest restaurant in CA (est. 1849) and memorable for its ambience. Reservations not accepted.

Cocktails: SF is a cocktail-ing kind of town!

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(photo courtesy of Stookey’s Club Moderne)

  • Stookey’s Club Moderne–This small, intimate Nob Hill bar is quietly elegant and oh-so transporting back, back, back to the 1930’s via its decor and music. The lighting is darkish with a hint of blue up lighting, the cocktails are period and knowledgeably made, and service is great. Woody Allen could film a movie set in 1930’s San Francisco here. Stookey’s CB is one of my top five fav bars in the world! It’s that good. Thank you, Travel + Leisure (2015), for recommending it to me.
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This photo doesn’t begin to capture Stookey’s wonderfulness (photo courtesy of Stokey’s Club Moderne)

Dinner

  •  Leo’s Oyster Bar: for FUN ambience and buzz! LOB’s designer described its look to Architectural Digest (2016): “Think 1950s Beverly Hills meets Manhattan club.” My husband took me here for my birthday and I was quite happy. Dress is city sophisticate.
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Leo’s Oyster Bar

  • Central Kitchen: for EXCELLENT food and relaxing ambience with low-key style…or as Travel+Leisure described it, “Confidently unfussy California cuisine in a canopied, elegantly industrial space.” Have a pre-dinn drink at Trick Dog (a T+L 2013 recommendation), the bar next door. Dress is casual.

Hotels: A Quick Word

SF hotels are EXPENSIVE, possibly more so than those in NYC or London. They’re also elusive: I found very few good recommendations among my many travel magazines and online sources. By good, I mean those that are smallish (under 75 rooms), nice and in convenient and attractive neighborhoods…and don’t cost $1,000 per night. Reasonable parameters. Here’s what I found:

  • Hotel Drisco (Pacific Heights): Expensive but warm ambience and talented staff, atop a hill in SF’s pretty Pacific Heights neighborhood, far from tourists; This is the place to stay if you’ve been to SF a few times and want to experience an upscale, quiet, urban neighborhood versus the business district’s/Embarcadero’s hubbub. The Hotel Drisco feels homey in an upscale way.
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Hotel Drisco

  • The Palace (Financial District)–Normally, I shy away from hotels that are huge, landmark, historic hotels with atriums because usually they are resting on old laurels and packed with conventioneers. BUT The Palace is an exception. It’s beautiful and stylishly decorated, having been renovated in 2015. When we entered the lobby and I saw the stantions with velvet cords in front of the check-in desk, I winced: stantions usually mean long lines to check in and out. However, the service was fast. Our room was really comfortable and decorated with panache. Located in the heart of SF’s Financial District, the Palace is a short walk from the SF Museum of Modern Art, cable cars, and the Ferry Building on lovely SF Bay. Check out the lovely Maxfield Parish painting in the bar (too bad about the tv’s that flank it)! (556 rooms)
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The Palace’s entrance: Beautiful!

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A Palace bedroom: Love those 11′ ceilings and city view!

SHOP

Sure, you can go to Gump’s at Union Square (definitely a good get) or wander into the little independent home decorating shops on Sacramento Street between Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights (Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic, Anthem, The Future Perfect, March, Sue Fisher King, to name a few good ones), BUT Chinatown is way more memorable and intriguing…

Chinatown–the largest outside of Asia. Be sure to visit an herbalist’s shop! An herbalist uses plants for medicinal purposes; like a Chinese drug store filled with plant-based remedies and charm (not a marijuana shop, FYI).

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Chinatown in San Francisco, California September 11, 2014. (Photo Copyright Nader Khouri 2014)

Neighborhoods: The Lowdown 

Travel + Leisure’s 2013 article provided the following descriptions of SF’s various neighborhoods:

  • Union Square: Big-name luxury boutiques border this central plaza downtown. MTF likes this neighborhood.
  • Mission District: The fast-gentrifying neighborhood is known for its Latino culture and standout restaurants and bars.
  • Hayes Valley: A stone’s throw from the opera and symphony hall, Hayes Street is chock-a-block with chic shops and cafes.
  • Pacific Heights: Come to this mansion-filled hilltop for postcard-worthy views of the city. MTF thinks it’s lovely!
  • SoMa: This sprawling area includes a plethora of museums, destination restaurants, and the ballpark, all amid a sea of parking lots and highway ramps.

TIP: Gotta take a cable car! They are San Francisco institutions, fun and an efficient way to get around the three neighborhoods they serve: Financial district/Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf area, and Nob Hill.

San Francisco stock

(photo courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association/Scott Chernis)

Traveling Companions: To get into a San Francisco frame of mind, read Dashiell Hammett’s “Maltese Falcon” and Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club.” For more suggestions, go to Longitude Books’s website.

London (part 1/2): Hotels & Sights

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Pip Pip, Cheerio, Let’s Go! Here’s the scoop, based on many articles in my travel file and over 30 trips to London:

STAY

Chelsea

Sloane Square Hotel 2013

Sloane Square Hotel

  • Sloane Square HotelIf modern décor in a great location is your thing, the SSH is attractive and sits right on Sloane Square, with its wonderful shops off the Square on Kings Road and on Pimlico Road, plus plays at the Royal Court Theatre right on Sloane Square, plus the nearby & lovely Chelsea Physic Garden, good restaurants, and a tube stop on the Square). Request a room overlooking always-buzzing and stylish Sloane Square.
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The Draycott

  • The Draycott Hotel–Two blocks from Sloane Square, the Draycott is refined, homey elegance, with traditional décor. This article from the HuffPost describes it best.The rooms are named after famous stage actors and your name will be inserted into the discreet name plate on your guest room door. Nothing flashy here, plus it is reasonably priced (though not cheap, because nothing good in London is). Request a  room with a balcony looking onto beautiful quiet Cadogan Square.

NOTE: If you are staying at the Draycott, drop by the nice bar at 11 Cadogan Gardens, a Small Luxury Hotel half a block away. Here’s what it looks like:

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11 Cadogan Gardens bar

  • The Sloane Clubis my personal fav, so if you can swing a letter of intro to this private club, go for it! In addition to individual rooms, they also have apartments. Great location just off of Sloane Square on Lower Sloane.

Knightsbridge

  • The Knightsbridge (10 Beaufort Gardens)–stylish, cheery, townhouse hotel decorated by its owner, the fabulously creative and successful Kit Kemp!
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The Knightsbridge Hotel

St. James

  • The Stafford (16-18 St. James Pl.)–VERY nice, old-school townhouse hotel with cozy, elegant bar. This photo shows the mews rooms (left). Ours was called The Daisy room because, in a former life, it was a stable for a horse named Daisy.
Blue Ball Courtyard

The Stafford

Following hotels get lots of positive press:

Mayfair

  • Claridge’s (Brook St.)–formal, traditional, fabled past, art deco, très élégant! Two beautiful bars. “…the suite with the prettiest of all balconies is 406,” per Departures (2015).

Claridge's lobby

  • The Connaught (Carlos Pl.)–very nice, with a buzzing, snazzy bar! This is where the Middletons stayed for Kate’s wedding. “The Apartment suite is London’s best example of making a hotel feel like a private home,” (Departures 2015)
  • Beaumont Hotel (Brown Hart Gardens)–Masculine art deco, upscale, nice neighborhood very near Grosvenor Square.

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Soho

  • Ham Yard Hotel (1 Ham Yard)–“the happiest hotel in London,” per Departures magazine (2015) PLUS beautifully decorated by owner Kit Kemp. The lobby was a-buzz with stylish people drinking tea and tasting champagne at 3:00 pm on the weekday afternoon when we popped in. It is a fun, happy place!
HYH Bar Orangery with plants MR

Ham Yard Hotel

SEE THE SIGHTS

London has too many fascinating sites to list here. Following are my fav’s, organized by neighborhood, from least obvious to most:

Embankment

  • Somerset House–history, fashion, art, good food, sublime terrace for drinks overlooking the Thames…it’s all here; SH is a former royal palace on the Thames, with four huge buildings and a central courtyard, in which Fashion Week’s fashion shows take place; the four buildings house art and fashion exhibits. PLUS Departures (Oct. 2015) recently named Spring restaurant at SH as one of 25 “tables of note.”

The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court at Somerset House © Jeff Knowles 2

Chelsea

  • Chelsea Physic Garden–LOVE this walled garden founded in 1673 to provide plants for medicinal purposes to the neighboring Royal Hospital; today, a section of its garden is organized by plants with healing ingredients for specific ailments. The CPG has a simple café, the Tangerine Dream Café, with very good food; suggest you make a reservation if you want to dine in the garden on a weekend, as fashionable Londoners fill up the tables for pastoral lunches…nice gift shop, too!
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Chelsea Physic Garden

  • Chelsea Flower Show (every May): HEAVEN ON EARTH because so fabulously over the top, the best-of-the-best horticulture specimens and garden designs, beauty and brains meet creativity. The photos below say it best!
RHS Chelsea Flowe Show

Chelsea pensioners look at ‘Peter Beales Roses’  at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London

RHS Chelsea Flowe Show

Two men look at a flower display at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London

Westminster

  • The Houses of Parliament–in session: House of Lords and House of Commons (the H of C is better because they have more meaningful debates). Be sure to get tickets in advance through the U.S. Embassy because you do not want to wait in those long lines. The very best ticket is for the “Prime Minister’s Question Time,” though hard to get. No line or ticket needed for the House of Lords, whose ceremonial chamber is worth a short visit.
  • Westminster Abbey–lots of famous people buried here, gorgeous in and of itself, PLUS Kate and Wills were married here, so you gotta go!
  • Buckingham Palace–The public is allowed inside once a year, in summer when the royal family is in Scotland. Otherwise, you are limited to watching the changing of the guard (not a life-altering experience), visiting the Queen’s Galleries (traditional, top quality, art), and the coach collection in the Royal Mews.
  • St. James Park–In front of Buckingham Palace, this is one of London’s several beautiful public parks.
  • The Tate Britain–fantastic, traditional collection in classic building
  • Churchill’s Underground War Cabinet Rooms–I found these fascinating. My husband, who reads a lot of history, found them superficial. Go anyway! They’re great.
The Map Room at IWMCMCWR. 7th October 2009. Shot for Film Location.

The Map Room at Churchill’s Underground War Rooms

©IWM

Directly Across the Thames from Westminster

  • The Eye–This is a ferris wheel whose views are like looking at a giant map of London. It takes about an hour to go around and that’s because it does so verrrrrrrrrrry slowly. Each “car” is clean and big, so not claustrophobic. I did not wait in line either time I went, so you probably won’t have to, either.

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Southwark

  • The Tate Modern–art museum in a very modern building with very contemporary exhibits/collection

Kensington

  • The Victoria & Albert Museum (“V and A”)–has exhibits on any and everything related to design, be it design of wrought iron hinges, sterling silver or fashions; huge and something for everyone here; they even have an ice skating rink in the winter

St. James

Holborn

  • British Museum–historic artifacts on a major scale, e.g. THE Elgin Marbles are here, as is THE Rosetta Stone=fascinating and transporting; if you are short on time, the museum has a Top 10 pamphlet that directs you to the highlights.

Street walking: Yes, I am listing walking as a sight in and of itself because it’s a great way to soak up the many, charming details of London streets and architecture and style and history.

TIP: If you like to see the sights on foot, pick up a London A-Z, the small, detailed map book with every street in London, available at most bookstores and newspaper kiosks.

DAY TRIPS

  • Hampton Court: Henry VIII’s castle with beautiful garden; recommend you go one-way by boat (depending on the tide) & the other way via rail.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew–impressive and historic
  • Greenwich’s Royal Observatory–as in, Greenwich Mean Time! Go if you’re interested in clocks, longitude & the British Naval Museum. Take a boat (make sure you’re going with the tide; recommend you pick up at Westminster or the Eye, for best city views) one way and the tube the other way,

WARDROBE

London is dressier than most US cities. You will see more women in heels and skirts here than in US cities. Also, they are not big on bright colors…except for men’s shirts, socks and waistcoats. Lots of black and grey assembled with panache.images

For RESTAURANT & SHOPPING recommendations, go to my “London: part 2/2 post.”

-posted May 2016