October 22nd, 2012The Best of London and Parisby Joseph Pearce
A friend of mine has just written to ask for recommendations of places to visit in London and Paris this weekend. Considering that visitors to the Ink Desk might also be planning or hoping to visit England or France, I thought I'd share my recommendations here. This is my reply to my friend.
Normally I tell people to see the obvious sites in London and then travel to different parts of the English countryside, off the beaten track, to see the best and most intersting parts of England. As such, I have lots of good places to recommend if you ever have enough time in England to travel around a bit but I'm not sure that I have too much to offer with regard to sites in London. Nonetheless, and for what it's worth, here are a few suggestions:
You should visit the London Oratory (nearest tube: South Kensington), which is a truly beautiful church. If you are there on a Sunday you should make a point of attending the 11am Latin Mass. It is one of the most sublime liturgies and musical experiences I have ever encountered: wonderful organist, beautiful choir, choreographed liturgy. The oratory is also in a great part of the city. It's next door to the Victorian & Albert Museum, down the road from the Natural History Museum and round the corner from the Science Museum, all of which are worth visiting and are either free or very cheap. These are all to be found if you turn right when leaving the Oratory; if you turn left, you will find Harrods on the right after a walk of about half a mile. En route to Harrods you will find several good though somewhat pricey restaurants.
The most interesting pub in London is probably Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, down a back alley on the north side of Fleet Street. You should check out the two levels of cellar bars below the bar on the ground level. The bar on the right as you enter the pub has the same wooden benches on which the illustrissimi of English culture have sat. You will be sitting on the same benches which graced the backsides of such luminaries as Samuel Johnson, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, Chesterton, Belloc and many others. The ale and food are also very good!
As a fanatical supporter of Chelsea Football Club, my childhood team who are currently champions of Europe, I would make a "pilgrimage" to the club's stadium at Stamford Bridge (nearest tube: Fulham Broadway) for the huge game against their biggest rivals Manchester United this coming Sunday. I dare say that this doesn't particularly interest you and, in any case, tickets are probably like gold dust!
If I think of anything else between now and the weekend I'll let you know.
As for Paris, I've only been there once. The highlight for me was Montmartre. The church of Sacre Coeur struck me as being more beautiful than Notre Dame cathedral and the view of the city from the top of Montmartre is outstanding. There's also an interesting Salvador Dali museum nearby (there's a good Dali museum on London's South Bank too) and some good restaurants in this traditionally Bohemian part of the city.