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London, England
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By Paul A. Friedman, Correspondent

Where to Stay // Facing Hyde Park, famous for its marble arch and political soapboxes, Grosvenor House is located on Park Lane and is set amidst the flowerbox-trimmed streets of Mayfair. Saville Row, the West End theaters, and Piccadilly Circus are within a short walking distance in one direction, while Buckingham Palace is down the street and the Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Palace are just across the park. Ambling down Park Lane holds the pleasure of gazing through large dealership windows at a variety of exotic sports cars. At the ready though, are conveniently located taxi stands, tour bus stops and the Underground, providing easy access to anyplace in the city.

Grosvenor House has beautiful hotel rooms done in floral prints, longer-term apartments and a grand ballroom called the Great Room, which began as an ice rink some eight decades ago and recently went through another renovation. It also has two restaurants, two bars, a hair and beauty salon and a variety of other conveniences. Its most pleasurable features, however, are its underground health club and well-stocked upstairs lounge equipped with a computer and free Internet access. The heated 20 meter swimming pool, sauna and Jacuzzi are set in a quiet, grotto-like environment, which makes them particularly soothing after a long day.

What to See and Do // While there are innumerable places to go and things to see, the crème de la crème are a newly-created and fascinating tour of Parliament and the British Museum. The tour of Parliament is in high demand and requires advance tickets. The British Museum has just been renovated to rave reviews and features such historic relics as the Rosetta Stone. I also recommend Churchill's War Room, which offers a trip back in time to see how World War II was managed from underground. Fans of the Bard should be sure to catch a play at the newly rebuilt Globe Theater.

Transportation // Heathrow Airport is far from the city and, considering the traffic, there is only one way to travel - the new Heathrow Express train. It doesn't cost much more than the normal Underground, but it is an enormous time saving and a pleasurable ride. Once in town, treat yourself to a cab ride, use the Underground for its convenience and take a tour bus early on in your trip to get an entertaining overview of the city. The bus tour guides offer fun insights into London's history and culture.

Shopping // Nearby Fortnum and Mason overflows with all sorts of gourmet delights and the Reject China Shops offers cut-rate prices on first rate china, crystal and flatware. Meanwhile, Gieves and Hawkes supplies quintessential English men's clothing (often made in Italy) and don't overlook the cleverly designed alleyway shops between the streets that are filled with specialty items and art galleries.

By Paul A. Friedman, Correspondent

Foggy, rainy London town. While that is its reputation, the final two weeks of August of 2000 was vintage walking weather. By all accounts, they were two of the loveliest weeks of the year. They were sunny and warm, with but one day of rain in all. Unfortunately for the locals, it fell upon a popular parade held on their one bank holiday that month. The people of any locale can make a trip truly memorable and to meet them it helps to walk around town and allow time for spontaneity.

My wife, Lori, and I shared a table with some fun people at a Chinese restaurant in Piccadilly Circus. We laughed with the crowd as we watched a female bobby on a horse firmly enforce civility among some overeager tourists climbing on statues while waiting for the changing of the guard. A friendly fellow we met in line, whose family couldn't make it at the last minute, treated us to tickets to the special tour of Parliament. And, we listened to a group of old friends talking in a delightful cockney accent while sitting in a park at night outside St. Paul's Cathedral.


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