Sure, when you visit London there are all the usual things that you can do, such as visit Buckingham Palace (no, you don’t actually get to go inside), go shopping in Oxford Street or Bond Street, visit the British Museum, go to Madame Tussaud’s, or see the Houses of Parliament, but wouldn’t it be much more fun to do some of the rarer things or visit some of the odd places tucked away in the corners of the city?
How about sleeping with the lions?
At London Zoo in Regents Park you can actually stay overnight next to the lions in the Gir Lion Lodge. You visit the lions in the Land of the Lions enclosure, enjoy a two-course dinner with a glass or two of Prosecco, see the pygmy hippos, warthogs, check on the Anteaters having their insect dinner at twilight, and stay in your own private en-suite cabin overnight. It’s as close as you can get to living on safari in the centre of the largest city in the world.
Years ago my father was a member of the London Zoological Society and in those days members could get in on Sunday mornings before the zoo opened and see the animals close up and handle them. I will never forget the experience of having a 14’ long python in my hands slithering up one arm around my neck and down the other arm. Fortunately, he wasn’t hungry.
The exhibits today are superb, having been designed in such a way as to display the animals as though they are in their own natural habitat. Go into the indoor rainforest and meet the armadillos, sloths, and monkeys. See the penguins eating dinner on Penguin Beach, or love the two Sumatran tigers, Jae Jae and Melati. The species was seriously endangered, but these two have had three cubs since they have been here.
Yes, a visit to this zoo is different from the run of the mill.
What about trying some white-water rafting? At Lea Valley you can do just that, along with canoeing, kayaking, and hydrospeeding (similar to body boarding) in the London 2012 Olympic Games venue.
Try a guided walk around Deptford Creek at low tide. This takes around two hours and is in one of the last surviving natural creeks in the UK. It includes birds, butterflies, animals, freshwater and saltwater plants, and over 120 different species of wild flowers.
In Mare Street in Hackney is the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History. This is a shop full of skulls, shells, specimens of taxidermy, creepy looking dolls, snakes, spiders, and an assortment of other weird and wonderful things. In the downstairs bar you can order cocktails and food – including chocolate worms and cockroaches! Up on the first floor is an art gallery which is also weird. All very strange, but well worth a trip.
In the Tower of London is the Yeomen Warders Club, which is actually the Beefeaters’ own on-site pub. It is only open to them and their guests, so it is worth getting to know one or two of them. It serves Beefeater Bitter and Yeoman 1485 Craft Lager which is made for them by Marston’s Brewery. The prices are cheaper than Wetherspoon’s and there are things like a grandfather clock made in 1679 and swords hanging on the walls. You may meet celebrities who have wangled the chance to get in, such as Patrick Stewart, Tom Cruise, and Ian McKellen.
Finally, what about the cheapest curry in London? In Fitzroy Square is the Indian YMCA, but it is open to anyone. Students and businessmen rub shoulders in there every lunch time and so can you. Veg curry and rice is just £1.80!