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City Travel Guide: There’s More to London than the Olympics, Part Two

- Rebecca Tay, a Canadian expat living in London, is a fashion writer and editor who has scribed for the likes of FASHION Magazine, ELLE Canada and Wallpaper.

Less than three weeks to go! This is officially my third Olympic experience, but as my first Summer Games (my other two were the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and, of course, the 2010 Games in Vancouver), this is really all even more exciting. Some of my tickets arrived by post last weekend, so it all feels very real indeed!

Following up from Part One, here are a few more of my must-dos:

Dine
If you happen to find yourself in Soho during the Games (and being in the smack-dab center of London, there’s a good chance you will), make your way to La Bodega Negra, the Mexican café and restaurant that opened this spring, courtesy of Serge Becker, the brain behind New York’s best Mexican restaurant, La Esquina. Like its New York sister, La Bodega Negra has two personalities: during the day, the café-taqueria is more casual, with diner-style booths where you can munch on soft tacos and tortillas. By night, enter the basement via a door marked “Sex Shop”—you’ll want to make reservations—and be sure to order many rounds of tequila cocktails.

Besides that, you’ll likely find yourself in a traditional English pub at some point during the Games, invariably one with a name like the Coach and Horses, the Duke of Wellington, or the Rose and Crown. If you can, try and make your pub experience a Sunday roast, which is basically like an enormous Thanksgiving dinner, every Sunday around 2 p.m. What’s not to love about lamb with mint sauce, or roast pork with crackling? Yum.

Shop
Olympic volleyball will be held at Earl’s Court in West London. Yes, that’s the other end of town from the Olympic stadium, but it’s also very close to Harvey Nichols, Harrod’s, and one of the city’s best little-big boutiques, The Shop at Bluebird. Unfortunately, most of the spring/summer sales are already winding down, with fall stock in stores by the time the Olympics begin, but these three are all great places to look for designer goods not always available in other cities. At the Shop at Bluebird, find designers such as Isabel Marant, Carven, Preen, Peter Pilotto, and a huge range of plates, books, furniture, and other nick-knacks by Italian sculptor Piero Fornasetti.

If you fancy a splurge or just a little window shopping, head down Brompton Road and Sloane Street, where you’ll find flagships for every major designer brand from Chanel and Stella McCartney to Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent (or Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, as it’s soon to become).

See
Pre-book your guaranteed-entry tickets to watch the Olympic action on the huge screens at Hyde Park and Victoria Park (where you may be able to catch a glimpse of the fireworks happening at the actual Stadium during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies). In addition to coverage of the Games (courtesy of the BBC, naturally), BT London Live at the parks includes activities ranging from cultural entertainment and live music to sports areas. If you’re lucky enough to be staying in London post-Olympics, head to Trafalgar Square, where the screens will be moving to provide live coverage of the Paralympic Games.

Where to Stay:
Search London luxury hotel listings

Read more on London:
Daniel’s London Discoveries: Paxton & Whitfield
Fresh Picks: London Calling
Hotel Intel: The Race for 2012 Olympics Overnighters, London Hotel Properties Prepare

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