When you’re in London, it’s difficult not to find yourself at Oxford Street, simply because it’s virtually the centre of this crazy place. Oxford, Regent, and Bond Streets are fun and requisite for a first-time visit to this area (skip Piccadilly…) because of its city madness and high-end shopping, but if you get to spend more time in the area, walk around the smaller inner streets to have a more unique experience.
Having lived on Great Portland Street for three months now, I can affirm that sometimes you are gung-ho about the English experience and as confident as a local, but sometimes you just want to embrace your inner American when you’re feeling a bit nostalgic for home.
Take this quiz to see what you should do around Oxford Street today:
1) You’ve just woken up to city traffic and you’re starving. Which do you fancy?
Photo courtesy of The Telegraph
A. Full English Breakfast: Stop by any local café for the classic English way to begin the day: bacon, fried eggs, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, buttered toast, baked beans, sausage, and black pudding (don’t ask). Of course, enjoy with a cuppa English breakfast tea.
Photo courtesy of Jackson + Rye
B. Pancakes & maple syrup: Visit Jackson + Rye on Wardour St. in Soho. This new American-style restaurant serves breakfast and brunch with pancakes, yogurt & granola, and different variations of eggs. I devoured the Avocado Eggs Benedict, complete with bacon bits, which melted in my mouth. Also a great place for a spiked breakfast drink or a traditional drip coffee.
2) Once you’re out of your food coma, you’ll want to burn it off with a workout. What gets your heart pumping?
Photo courtesy of Aya Jane Saotome
A) Zumba, Yoga, Spinning… any workout class: Join a fitness club that offers classes! This is a great way to become integrated into the community and feel more of a local than a visitor. Look on LivingSocial to find affordable ways to stay in shape. I bought a discounted voucher for Zumba with London Live Fitness at the Central Y at Tottenham Court Rd. in Soho!
Photo courtesy of AdventureBalloons.co.uk
B) Running through the park: London is a wonderful place to go running as it doesn’t get too cold and there are many areas away from the busy roads. Two areas around Marylebone are Regent’s Park and Hyde Park. I prefer Regent’s because it’s smaller, closer to Oxford St., and equally beautiful. Don’t forget your keys!
3) After you nap, you’re ready for some evening fun. Which gives you an adrenaline rush?
Photo courtesy of The Telegraph
A. Pub Quiz: Prove that your time trolling Buzzfeed and following Hidden Facts on Twitter have been productive by playing the local’s pub quiz (not called ‘trivia’ here). Beware: some pubs charge a small fee to enter whilst others are free (International Student House) -- but there is always a nice prize, like a bar tab or bottles of wine, to the winning team. The quiz at The Albany on Great Portland St. had my team stumped, but the £1 fee would have been worth it for the £50 gift card.
B. Spot a celebrity at BBC Radio 1: The headquarters of the BBC are right off of Regent’s St. on Portland Place, making it an ideal location for celebrity sightings as musicians, actors, comedians, and the like are coming in and out of interviews. The most exciting we’ve seen so far is Ellie Goulding, though we tried (and failed) to bump into Lorde. Be in the loop by checking the BBC Radio 1 schedule.
4) Time for a spot of dinner. What smells so good?
A. Fish & Chips: The classic. Head’s up: you won’t find ‘crisps’ here, but thick fries instead. The most English way to eat it: order take away from a local shop (like my favourite, Fish Bone on Cleveland St.), ask for cod, top with vinegar and some salt, and don’t look shocked when a ‘regular’ is a whole fish.
Photo courtesy of London Evening Standard
B. BBQ: Get down and dirty at Pitt Cue Co. on Newburgh St. in Soho with good old-fashioned barbeque so flavourful you’ll be begging for more, washed down with amazing cocktails. I haven’t been here -- yet -- but a fellow American friend has highly recommended it and it’s gotten incredible reviews. My boyfriend and I are visiting in a few weeks.
5) Finally, it’s time to hit the town for the night. Where will you be spotted?
Photo courtesy of Per Lykke
A. Your local pub: For a special English experience, hit a pub that supports a particular football team, like The Spread Eagle on Woodstock St., right off of Oxford St., which shows all Liverpool FC matches. Because my boyfriend’s from this area up north, I’m an automatic Reds supporter, and loved being surrounded by so many passionate Scousers!
Photo courtesy of blog.zagat.com
B. A milkshake bar -- as a special treat after you’ve visited O’Neill’s or another club: Try Tinseltown on Great Portland St., my flat’s favourite for rich, creamy milkshakes. They’re open late, are well-priced, and mix in virtually any candy concoction you fancy. Just don’t think about the calories.
If you picked mostly As, you’re really fitting in here and are enjoying English culture to its fullest. Pretty nice, innit?
If you picked mostly Bs… you may be a little homesick for the States, but luckily London offers some great cures for that. It’s nice to feel the comforts of home occasionally.
If you are about half-and-half, congratulations! You’re a true Londoner, with a pinch of just about everything.
The bigger point: explore! This area is a bit of Marylebone, Fitzrovia, and Soho. There’s always something interesting to see or do that the tourists don’t know about, so roam around the side streets and live like a Londoner.