Literary Travels: London in Three Novels
Brick Lane, MONICA ALI
In 1980s London an arranged marriage brings a young Bangladeshi woman to the immigrant enclave of Brick Lane, now known for its curry houses, vintage shops, and street art.
London, EDWARD RUTHERFURD
An epic cast of fictional characters interacts with historical figures such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens in this compelling read spanning some two millennia of history.
Midnight Riot, BEN AARONOVITC
This twist on the typical police procedural is set in contemporary, albeit magical, London, where a constable gets help from a Victorian ghost in solving a Covent Garden murder.
If you liked London Eye Then Try…
The recently opened, and free. Sky Garden in the 20 Fenchurch Street tower hosts evening live jazz amid a garden of palm trees, lavender, and rosemary. Early birds can test their balance during the garden’s morning yoga.
If you liked Buckingham Palace Then Try…
The childhood home of Henry VIII, Eltham Palace served as one of England’s largest and most frequented residences for royals from the 14th to 16th centuries. Today, walk over its moat on London’s oldest working drawbridge.
If you liked Natural History Museum Then Try…
Museum of Zoology
Tucked away in University College London, the Grant Museum of Zoology specializes in natural history and animal anatomy. The site provides a home to about 67,000 preserved specimens, many of which are extremely rare.
If you liked Westminster Abbey Then Try…
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London, or Neasden Temple, is a Hindu temple in North London where the Indian-style marble meditation room may make you believe you’ve gotten off the Tube on a different continent.
A Very Crumbly Scone Crawl
For cuppa conservatives, Candella, off Kensington High Street, is everything you could ask for in a traditional tea shop. Order the cream tea, which features two warm, fluffy scones filled with raisins (1) and dusted with powdered sugar. At the Milestone Hotel, settle into one of the leather armchairs in the Conservatory, a black-and-white lounge with windows for walls, and savor a maple-cured-bacon (2) scone paired with a pint. Finally, follow the fanfare to the Kensington Palace’s Orangery for an orange-and-currant (3) scone and sips of the aptly named Afternoon at the Palace tea blend.
Button Up for a British Tailor Tour
Tweeds or worsteds, flannels or mohairs, prized wool cloth still is woven in Britain’s historic mills. In Scotland and Yorkshire, wool-weaving’s historic heartland, a number of these factories receive visitors, allowing a fascinating glimpse at an honored custom—and maybe even a spot of shopping.
Rare looms from the early 20th century—the peak era for British production—still create tweeds and tartans at the Islay Woollen Mill, a small Scottish factory founded in 1883 on a streamside site where cloth has been made since the 1500s. Word of the mill’s expertise with mainly British raw wool has spread as far as Hollywood, where costumers used the fabrics in films like Braveheart and Forrest Gump.
On the edge of England’s Yorkshire moors, Taylor & Lodge has woven worsteds at the same factory since 1883. You’ll need to make an appointment to visit, but it’s worth it to watch skilled workers run the state-of-the-art machines that have fabricated cloth for top garmentmakers like couturier Tom Ford.
Established in 1947, Lochcarron of Scotland is the world’s largest producer of tartan. During tours of its Selkirk mill, visitors clamp on headphones against the metallic roar of machinery as a guide explains the complex process of dyeing, winding, warping, and weaving scarves, stoles, and throws. Some of its 700-plus tartan patterns show up in the shop’s jackets, ties, and traditional eight-yard kilts, so named for the amount of fabric required to make one.