I have been working in London for close to five years. As a native of Bangkok, I experienced quite a culture shock when I first arrived in the city. Everything about London was new and unfamiliar to me. From the climate difference (four seasons versus hot and humid), to the cultural variations (London is a melting pot of culture, Bangkok tends to be more homogenous), it was like living on another planet.
All this has passed and now the city is not just a place I work in. London is home and it always makes me proud to have the opportunity to show off its many wonders.
Where History and Knowledge are Stored
London has many faces. It is at once a shiny metropolis, and capital of the latest trends; and a grand old dame with ancient stories and history-filled sites to explore. I personally like old London because it is full of character. To unearth the great stores of history London hides, start at The British Library, a 20-minute stroll from Citadines Prestige Holborn-Covent Garden.
This treasure trove of tomes is renowned for being the largest library in the world. Its shelves hold over 150 million books, manuscripts, journals, magazines, newspapers, sound and music recordings, videos, scripts, patents, maps, databases, prints and drawings. Some go as far back as 2000 BC. If that is not enough to satiate your thirst for knowledge, every year the library adds some three million more items to its collection.
At The British Library, you can find any and every book produced in the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland plus a large proportion of overseas titles distributed in the UK. This is because, as a legal deposit library, it receives free copies of these books.
To get the most out of this place, opt for a guided tour. It will take you through the history of the library which goes back 41 years, its architecture, and vast collections. You will also learn how books are stored, accessed and delivered. If you have the time, pick up an item or two. A point of interest, though - if you see just five items each day, it would take you over 80,000 years to see it all.
If you are staying at Citadines Prestige South Kensington, take a five-minute walk to the Natural History Museum. It is my favourite museum. Here, some 70 million life and earth science specimens are stored in five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology, and zoology.
The museum began in the 1700s and houses some of the most historically valuable collections of all time including specimens collected by Charles Darwin. Some long-time residents of the place worth visiting are Archie, an 8.62-metre long giant squid at The Darwin Centre; and Dippy, a 32-metre-long replica of the Diplodocus skeleton in the central hall, amongst the museum’s extensive collection of dinosaur skeletons. Another iconic display is the skeleton and model of a blue whale that was beached on the sandbanks at Wexford Bay. Its remains were in storage for 42 years before the skeleton went on display in 1934. I enjoy walking amongst animals from the past, learning about their evolution, and seeing some species that are now extinct like the Dodo.
A three-minute walk from Citadines Prestige Trafalgar Square is The National Gallery where over 2,300 paintings are stored, dating from the mid-13 th century to 1900. Here is where you can view Claude Monet’s The Water Lily Pond and Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers. There are also works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli and Rembrandt to inspire you.
Stores Stocked for Retail Fun
Shopping in London is a study in diversity. I love how you can find stores that stock the trendiest, cutting-edge fashion and vintage clothing stores almost side by side. For the latest in London and world fashion, walk south seven minutes from Citadines Barbican London. You will find yourself at the city’s newest mall, One New Change, which overlooks St Paul’s Cathedral. Spending a lazy afternoon there having coffee while enjoying the stunning rooftop view of the city is one of my favourite things to do. It is one of the most relaxing ways of enjoying old and new London in a single day.
Head north from Citadines Barbican London instead and you will end up at Columbia Road Flower Market. The street market is famous for its fresh-cut blooms, flora collection, and garden equipment and accessories. But it also has plenty of vintage fashion and little curio stores that let you get lost in them for hours.
The stores at Regent Street and Bond Street are where I love to shop. Regent Street is just a seven-minute walk from The Cavendish London. When you shop there, you must stop at Hamleys on Regent Street, the world’s oldest and largest toy shop. Here is where more than 50,000 toys are stored on seven floors. It will surely delight the child in you and any child you take there. My daughter is two and every time I shop there for her, I have to resist the temptation to buy the whole store.
Stock Your Pantry
For something to take back, why not stock up on tea things? You can have your very own English tea when you get home and reminisce about your travels in London. At Fortnum and Mason, situated opposite The Cavendish London and 10 minutes from Ascott Mayfair London, you will find just about all you need. The store is famous for its high quality provisions and exotic selection of food. English biscuits, fruit cakes, caviar , foie gras , cheeses, cold cuts, smoked fish, preserves, wines, assorted candy including the marvelously delicious English toffee, and, of course, a wonderful array of loose leaf teas make a great afternoon tea menu.
London is a place that has so much in store for its visitors. I certainly have stored up my fair share of memories in this place that has been home for the last five years. Come and let the allure of London’s attractions astound you.
Come stay with us: