After De Young Yes, Starbucks No in San Francisco with David Patterson we take a cross-atlantic flight and ask Ms Marmite Lover her 10 Do's and Don'ts (actually 11) for London.
There she goes.
London is without a doubt the best city in the world. So there! And I've travelled everywhere, lived in Los Angeles and Paris. I always return to London. It may be filthy, expensive, cold, grey and sprawling, but it's also a powerhouse of culture and innovation and a repository of history.
1) History: where to start? This city is chocker with the past, from Jack the Ripper walks in the East End to famous architecture.
I recommend visiting museums and galleries, most of them are free. My faves: the Victoria and Albert museum (great gift shop!) and the Tate Modern.
Do find out about London's occult side past and present: visit Treadwell's bookshop for books or interesting talks (I went to one by ex Blondie guitarist Gary Valentine who has become an occult writer) or visit Cross Bones burial ground where there is a monthly vigil on the 23rd, honouring the outcast dead, mostly prostitutes and paupers in the 19th century.
2) Kinky sex: the French call homosexuality 'the English disease', we've always had our fair share of stately homos. Even straight English men come across as camp! Soho in the centre of London was historically a red light district, it's now Boystown UK. I highly recommend the fascinating talk and walk by around Soho given by David Thompson every Sunday at 2pm meeting outside the Admiral Duncan pub on Old Compton st.
Wanna get kinkier?
Try a club like Torture Garden. It's S & M lite with beautiful women and men striking poses, looking like escapees from the set of Blade Runner/ Interview with the Vampire. There is a dress code to get in, but girls, to hell with going to gym and trying to nip in your waist via your own muscles, buy a corset at Blackrose in Camden market), just like in the old days, which does all the work for you!
3) Curry: Britain has some of the best curry houses in the world, better than India even. In London, curry hot spots include Southall (on the Piccadilly line) like little India; Drummond Street round the back of Euston (I like Zeen, bit posher) and finally the East End. Brick Lane in the East End used to have many good curry houses, it's now a bit touristy but a real authentic gem Tayyabs is near Whitechapel. Not only is it the best naan breads, rice, tandoori meats you'll ever eat but it's also hard to spend more than £15 a head.Order the tinda masala (squash curry) and tell them I sent you.Best to book, there are always queues.
4) Green Spaces: despite the pollution and grey skies of London (Woody Allen says he loves the light here) we have some of the best parks in the world. Unlike Paris, with their regimented planting and 'do not sit on the grass' notices, our green spaces are wilder, more organically designed and, a plus in this rather sprawling city, large enough to feel like you are actually in the countryside. My favourite is Hampstead Heath, where you can find edible mushrooms, watch bunny rabbits hop, and see the odd celebrity taking their Sunday walk.
5) Food: visit Borough market, but best on Thursday and Fridays. The weekends are ridiculously crowded. There are plenty of tastings to be had, as well as hot food. If you love cheese you must check out Neal's Yard Dairy. Britain now has over 1,200 cheeses, beating the boast that De Gaulle made about France: "How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?". Other recommendations: Broadway market on Saturdays near London Fields and Portobello Road.
Also do visit a supper club; London is now the world centre for supper clubs, pop ups and home restaurants. This is the only way for a tourist to eat in Londoner's homes. I have listed a whole slew of them on my Supperclub Fan Group or visit the Underground Restaurant, my own Supper Club.
6) Pub Quizzes: the British love a quiz, and most local pubs have a quiz night. My favourite and possibly the toughest is Tuesday nights at the Prince of Wales in Highgate. It's a historic pub filled with spirits, both ghostly and alcoholic located in a historic and pretty 'village' of London. But there are plenty of others: check out the list at Pub Quiz Help. Join a team if you can and share a few pints with the locals. There are usually some tricky questions about US geography so you'll be very popular.
1) Don't move slowly in the centre of town. We are busy, you are in the way. Don't stand in front of the tube barriers pondering your next move, you will likely get mowed down, but naturally with a very British and apologetic 'terribly sorry'.
2) Do not eat at crappy tourist restaurants in the centre of town. We do good food, despite our reputation, but if you eat at Angus steak house, Wetherspoons pubs or other chain restaurants, you will only be disappointed. Sometimes it's inevitable, being a tourist is exhausting and you inevitably end up flopping in the nearest place where you can have a sit down and a cup of tea, but don't judge us by those places.
3) Do not boast: about your country, your white and even teeth, or your salary. The British way is to be modest. If saying something good about yourself or the United States is unavoidable, merely mutter 'it's not bad', that's code for "it's bloody brilliant".
4) Don't mention God or religion. We are a post Christian nation, nobody overtly believes in God. If you do, we will think you are a nutter.
5) Don't expect a good shower: our water pressure is not particularly powerful compared to US style power showers. Also, we often take baths. Remember it's not a warm country so washing is not very high up the list of priorities.
Hope to see you back next Saturday or Sunday for another helping of 10 Do's and Don'ts in a different locale.
(* all photos by Kerstin Rogers, Typical HP sauce with Big Ben on it and Tower bridge in the background, David Thompson who gives the Soho talk, Morroccan street stall in Portobello market)