Here’s some useful Kensington hints and tips for anyone visiting the area!
Treasure Hunting in the Thames
Anyone who has ever shopped at the Sainsbury’s near Wandsworth Bridge will have enjoyed the pleasant walk on the path there that runs alongside the River Thames. However, as pleasant as the walk is, the view is not so: there are usually quite a few bits of rubbish floating in the river, including the obligatory shopping trolleys (10, the last time I was there).
It would seem , however, much more exciting things can actually be found in the murky waters: the riverbank is in fact a “vast archaeological site” that appears during low tide. Possible finds include Victorian items and, occasionally, a medieval amulet. Anyone can become a “mudlark” (the name given to those who dig through the mud of the riverbank) by getting a license from the Port of London Authority (Devon House, 58 St Katherine’s Way, London E1, tel: 020 7265 2656). However, the area between Tower Bridge and Westminster is off limits: this is operated by the Society of Mudlarkers, into which you have to be admitted if you have a “serious and proven archaeological interest in the Thames.”
Sightseeing by bus
One of the great sightseeing bargains is the number 11 bus which travels from Fulham Broadway to Liverpool Street Station, taking you past many famous London landmarks along the way. This is an excellent bargain for just the price of a bus fare (cheaper if you use an Oyster card rather than paying by cash) or as part of your travelcard usage.
I suggest you start at Fulham Broadway, as the bus then travels up the famous King’s Road, past Sloane Square, Buckingham Palace Road (Buckingham Palace), Victoria Street (Westminster Cathedral, Houses of Parliament), Whitehall (10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square), the Strand, Fleet Street, and then Ludgate Hill up to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Buses 9 and 10 are also very good. Get on either bus near High Street Kensington Underground Station. The 9 goes through Piccadilly Circus to Aldwych and the 10 through Knightsbridge, Marble Arch, Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road.
For serious walkers, one of the great ways of exploring London is by walking. Get one of the numerous walking guides (books) to London.
Rock Legends in Kensington
Bob from Florida asked if the late Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, used to live somewhere in the Kensington area. Yes, his house is a popular site and is situated at 1 Logan Place, W8. The outer wall used to be covered in graffiti and messages by Queen fans from around the world, particularly from Japan. Before moving to Logan Place, Freddie used to live at 12 Stafford Terrace, W8 in the mid 80s.
Some other famous rock stars also lived in Kensington & Chelsea at one point in their careers. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin lived in a beautiful house at 29 Melbury Road, W8 in the mid 70s. George Michael rented a flat during his Wham! days in Adam and Eve Mews, W8, just off High Street Kensington. In Chelsea, at 102 Edith Grove, SW10, Brian Jones, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones lived here in 1962/3 before they hit the big time. Richards and Jagger later moved to Cheyne Walk, SW3 in the late 60s (by this time they could afford separate houses!). Keith was at 3 and Mick at number 48. Eric Clapton and Bob Geldof also lived in Chelsea until very recently, Eric in Old Church Street and Bob in Redburn Street SW3 . Both were frequently seen eating breakfast at the Picasso Café in King’s Road.
London at Christmas
John from L.A. wanted to know what London was like at Christmas time. The whole of London is closed on Christmas Day. Shops, restaurants, banks, cinemas, theatres, museums and public transport do not operate. The only places that are open are a few fast food places, and perhaps some corner stores. Normally, there is no snow, but the weather is dull with rain possible. You might be better off staying in sunny California and coming to London after Christmas.
Is London Safe?
Sonia asked about the area around Russell Square (where she was staying) and whether there were any particularly dangerous areas of London. Russell Square is in fact a nice area, just a few minutes away from the British Museum, University of London and the West End (Oxford Street). Overall, there are no particularly dangerous areas. London is one of the safest big cities of the world. As anywhere, pickpockets do operate in busy shopping areas and it is advisable not to carry too much money or wear expensive jewellery/watches. Common sense, as ever, is required!
Where to get information
Visit Kensington Public Library in Hornton Street, W8 for free leaflets, literature, maps, days out etc. for the whole of London, and Kensington and Chelsea in particular. There is a huge selection.
You can’t go wrong by visiting the British Travel Centre (12 Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus SW1) for all sorts of useful literature and a booking service, as well as extensive information on theatre tickets, tours, trains, buses and accommodation.
Please note that there are also tourist information centres at Heathrow Terminal 3 and the Heathrow Underground station concourse, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airports. There is also a centre at Victoria Station (sometimes very busy, though).
Keeping in touch
Phoning home from your hotel could be very expensive! It is much cheaper using a phone shop (there are at least five in the Earls Court Area).
If you tend to keep in touch with friends and home by e-mail, open a free Hotmail or Yahoo account (or similar). You can then e-mail just by having access to computer connected to the Internet from cybercafes or the computer section of public libraries.
For e-mail, the cheapest place is Declare (58 Kenway Road, SW5, opposite Earl’s Court Underground Station). They only charge 50p for 5 minutes, which is a fantastic price. I can personally recommend this place, as the staff are very friendly. Another inexpensive place is London Internet (33a Old Brompton Road, South Kensington, SW7). They charge £1 for ten minutes. Both places offer all sorts of computer services.
Bill B. from Connecticut asked a few questions about the weather in London. In the last few years, September was usually the nicest, sunniest month of the year. According to the London Weather Centre, average rainfall for September is 2 inches or 50 mm and the average temperature 19C or around 66F. We don’t really have a rainy season in London – it just tends to rain all year round! (Although heavy rainstorms are few and far between.) The highest average is in November, about 2 and a half inches and the lowest in April, just below 2 inches. Very rarely do we get snow in London, and if we do it usually melts in a day or two. London has one of the mildest climates in England.
For those coming with young kids, there are several playgrounds in the local parks. There is one in Kensington Gardens, north of Kensington Palace (Bayswater Road entrance), but there are also two very nice ones in Holland Park (Illchester Road entrance). There is one immediately on the left, suitable for young children, and one further in the park (an adventure playground) which is better for older children up to the age of 12.
For blues lovers, one of the greatest places to go (and it is FREE!) is the Station Tavern, W10 (41 Bramley Road, W10, Underground Latymer Road ). A regular blues programme daily from 9pm onwards. Almost every Friday, my favourite group Big Joe Louis And His Blues Kings play. They are great!