"The art of creatively immersing ones self in another culture in order to have an experience that will at best teach you something new about life, and at worst be bloody good fun."
Immerse yourself in London!
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMMERSIVE TRAVEL EXPERIENCES IN LONDON
London is a Megatropolis. It's fast moving, dirty, and exciting. People migrate here from all over Britain and indeed the world seeking the legendary streets paved with gold. Fortunately for you, you're just on holiday. How are you going to get to the heart of this two thousand year old beast?
Your Immersive Travel Challenge should you choose to accept it is as follows:
BREAKFAST - THE FULL ENGLISH
You have to start the day in London taking breakfast at a café. There is a certain breed of café known to Londoners affectionately as 'greasy spoon' cafes. You can locate one by asking any local "Excuse me where's the nearest greasy spoon?" If they don't understand then repeat "I'm looking for a KAFF, I need a full English to sort my 'ed aht." Then they will understand. Remember to say "CHIS" instead of thank you for the duration of your time here.
You'll know when you're in the right place. The menu will most likely be on a chalkboard and will display a wide variety of combinations of fried meats. You need to order what will most likely be called the Full English Breakfast and a Cuppah Tea. See if anyone's left a copy of a Tabloid newspaper lying around to read over your breakfast. Now, reading The Sun over a plateful of bacon and eggs in a London Kaff you truly are ready for the London experience.
PULL A FUNNY FACE AT A SOLDIER
The classic, and arguably the original act of immersive tourism, was carried out in the 1930's. Young cockney scamps discovered that the guards at Buckingham Palace were forbidden to interact with anyone in any way. They realised that they could taunt the guards for their own amusement without any significant comeback. Nowadays tourists from all over the world attempt to make the guardsman laugh by pulling grotesque faces at them. Get involved.
GET SOME PROPER FISH AND CHIPS
There are many fine restaurants in London but that doesn't count for anything with us. The only way to have lunch is out of grease paper while sat on a park bench, preferably being drizzled on by a light yet persistent rain. Seek out a fish and chip shop. If you ask a local for the best chip shop in town they will all have fevered personal opinions on the matter. Follow their advice. Get battered cod with chips and mushy peas. For style points order a pickled egg to go with it. They will say "Open or wrapped" you must demand it open. Then seek the nearest park bench and have lunch 'al fresco' in true London form.
EAT JELLIED EELS
For dinner we have saved the most peculiar of London delicacies. Some time ago the good folk of the east end decided it would be a good idea to put boiled baby eels in gelatine and then eat them cold with pickle. You must try this rare London treat, head for the Brick Lane area where it is rumoured Jellied Eels have been making a comeback as a popular snack.
GO FOR A VINDALOO
If you can't keep the eels down and you find yourself still hungry then head back up Brick Lane and get a table at a decent curry house. Don't be fooled, Curry is the most popular food in England, Korma is the national dish, there is no more authentically London experience. Traditionally, London macho men order the Chicken Vindaloo and several Cobra beers.
DRINK WITH THE ARISTOCRACY
Now why not attempt to blag your way in to one of London's Gentleman's Clubs? Green Park tube station will get you in the right place, head for Pall Mall. Since the seventeen hundreds the rich and powerful men of the city have escaped to their Pall Mall clubs to drink port and play billiards in the most exclusive establishments in London. White's is by far the most exclusive, it's where Prince Charles had his stag do. Explain to the doorman that you are here for an important meeting with a member who is putting you forward for joining the club. If that fails just say you have to get in to deliver important and personal news to someone. You'll have to make up a name. Try something like 'Lord Burk'.
For the next challenge you shall need the services of a costumier. There are several in London but if you can't be bothered to do any research of your own then there's one near Old Street tube station. You have a range of options here. You could get dressed up as Austen powers and head for Carnaby Street, the heart of swinging London. You could get dressed up as James Bond and get your photo taken in front of the sci-fi MI6 building. Or you could choose to get dressed up as Harry Potter and get down Kings Cross Station to wait for a train on platform 91/2. Go wild.
DANCE WITH THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
Chinawhites, Capisce, Eve, The Playroom and the Met bar are all very exclusive nightclubs frequented by the rich and the beautiful. It's not impossible to gain entry as a mere mortal if you dress extremely well and walk as if you own seven classic cars and two houses. It's all in the walk. This is your opportunity to ensnare an heir or heiress and marry into the aristocracy. Talk only to women or men with double-barrelled surnames, ignore the A-list celebrities they're not half as rich. You can consider this challenge complete if you even get in but if you successfully marry into the aristocracy you'll get flair points.
GET ON YOUR SOAP BOX
There are some important London experiences to be had in Hyde Park. Go for Hyde Park corner tube station, get into the park and follow the signs to the bathing area at the Serpentine lake. Dive in. The cold is good for the circulation.
An alternative for the sensitive is to hire a rowboat. But the rowboat option requires a copy of Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland and some crumpets. Get these items and read a few chapters from Alice aloud whilst eating buttered crumpets on the lake. A quintessentially genteel English experience.
While you're in Hyde Park you must go to Speaker's Corner. Here for over a century men and women of ideas from Karl Marx to Emmeline Pankhurst to Marcus Garvey have come here to orate. Now you can join that proud tradition. You have to gather a crowd so talk loud and use big gestures. A catchy tag line could help. We suggest 'Disco not War' as a theme. You never know you might find you really do have something to say.
HECKLE AT ROMEO AND JULIET
If you can get tickets for a performance at the globe theatre do so. The phone number is 02074019919. Or nip in an internet café and search Shakespeare's globe box office. Your challenge is to take a ticket for the stalls and stand like an Elizabethan rough, eat constantly and loudly heckle the actors whenever you like. Better still learn to abuse people in Elizabethan English, and do so. It's perfectly acceptable because it's living history! And it's just what the original audience to Shakespeare's plays would have done.
If you can't get tickets for the Globe you'll have less trouble getting seats at Regents Park open air theatre. Watching Shakespeare outdoors on a Midsummers evening as the sunsets behind the stage counts as an immersive London experience. But don't heckle here cause you'll get chucked out.
JUMP IN A BLACK CAB
Transport! You have to take a black cab ride at some point even if you don't really need to. London cabbies are a unique and beautiful breed. They spend up to six years training for a licence and they hold an atlas of London in their mutated brains. Apparently t University College of London found out that the training physically changes the structure of the cabbies brain making their spatial data processor, known as the Posterior Hippocampi, larger than that of a non-cabbie. Try telling your driver this and see how he reacts. You must also ask what famous people he or she has had in the back of the cab. Cabbies are a goldmine of stories about celebrities.
RIDE THE BIG RED BUS
Still in the transport theme you need to get on a big red bus. Make sure you get the front seats on the top deck and take a bus route that goes through central London. Why not pretend that you are actually driving the bus?
DO THE DLR
Another great ride to be had is on the Docklands Light Railway. You can get on this monorail style train at Tower Hill and go on a round trip around Canary Wharf. The views are very Sci-Fi and the trains have no drivers allowing you to stand right at the front window and press your face against the glass like a child.
GO AND HAGGLE WITH A COCKNEY!
There are several London markets and they're all great but the one where genuine cockney traders are most in evidence is Petticoat Lane. The tube stop is Aldgate East. Get down there on a Sunday and get haggling. Extra points available for the best haggle down.
Finally it would be an outright lie of omission to not include an alchohol related challenge. Londoners drink. There are several ways you can get involved. One is to find a very old pub and get in a dark corner with your chums. Try a pint of all the different cask ales, beers and bitters available. You must obey certain codes of conduct for a proper London afternoon in the pub. Eat a bag of pork scratchings. Play a drinking game involving rude words. Learn to flip and catch beer mats with alarming accuracy.
GET DRUNK IN CIRCLES
The other possibility is to engage in the legendary Circle line pub-crawl. You'll probably notice the yellow line on the tube map is circular. The rules are simple. Buy a travel card and go round every stop on the Circle. At every stop you go into the nearest Public House to the Station and drink a half of the weakest lager you can. Anything stronger would be suicide. It would be wise to write your hotel address on your arm before you start.
GET DRUNK BY THE RIVER
And finally a far more gentle way to indulge in a Londoners favourite vice. The institution of the lazy Sunday all Dayer. Head out to leafy south-west London around 11:00 am on a Sunday. Along the river heading west from Putney there are several districts that feature riverside pubs. Get to a newsagent and buy a stack of broadsheet newspapers. Install yourself in a pub and stay there literally all day drinking slowly as the mood takes you and watching the river roll by. Come mid afternoon order a Sunday Roast and gorge yourself on roast meat and vegetables. Experience the warm afterglow of contentment. Then move on to the cocktails and get properly drunk for the evening. Ten points!
THINK OF YOUR OWN!
In travel you have to be able to turn on a sixpence. Step lively and think on your feet. How can you have the most immersive experience of Rome? You must explore the possibilities for yourself. Can you earn the hugely prestigious and career advancing 'Pioneer of Immersive Travel' sew-on badge? We doubt it.