Alex Kalinik travels to London to discover just some of the things you can get up to in the capital.
With the recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the upcoming Olympic Games, there’s no question that in 2012 London’s calling – and if you base yourself in the London Bridge Hotel you’ll find yourself at the heart of some of the capital’s finest attractions.
Just a couple of hundred yards from London Bridge Station, London Bridge Hotel could not be located better for exploring the local area – which is currently undergoing a multi-million pound regeneration programme.
The hotel building dates back to 1916, but the history of the site goes back much further than that. St Thomas’ Chapel was built on the site in the 12th century and Roman artefacts found during hotel refurbishments in the 90s provide a clear link to the period when Southwark was a major suburb of Roman Londinium.
Today London Bridge Hotel combines traditional and contemporary designs to provide a welcoming haven for guests at the very heart of the thriving city.
Having checked in and dropped our bags off in our spacious and stylish room we headed out to explore.
Following our noses led us to the bustling Borough Market, a gourmet paradise which offers a tantalising array of foods from all corners of the world.
Particular highlights include delicious cheesecake available in Borough’s Green Market and the Triple M burger from the Boston Sausage stall.
This is a must for anyone with an abiding interest in the eternal battle between man and food – two pork burgers topped off with Stilton, red onion marmalade and rocket, served in an English muffin. Take one down and you should have all the fuel you need to explore the area.
Just outside Borough Market you can find the Wine Pantry in Stoney Street.
This cosy tasting room only sells English wine – the delightful sparkling wines are perfect for toasting British success at the Olympics while the in-store taster sessions surely have to be one of the best ways to spend a fiver in the capital.
You can sample six domestic wines ranging from crisp whites to delicate roses and full-bodied reds.
However you choose to split your wine pick and mix make sure you sample the Giffords Hall Bacchus 2010 – fresh, refreshing and exciting it really does show you can have grape expectations for English wine.
Our exploration of the area took us along the bank of the Thames, passing The Globe Theatre, a must-see for Shakespeare fans, before reaching the Tate Modern and crossing the river via the Millennium Bridge.
By this point we were rapidly running out of time before our dinner reservations, but there was still time to check out the remnants of the Occupy London protests at St Paul’s Cathedral before returning to the hotel to eat at its Quarter Bar and Lounge.
Exploring Borough Market only a few hours before dinner probably wasn’t the best way to prepare ourselves, but there was no denying the quality of the food on offer.
We opted to try a range of tapas-style small plates including tender lamb koftas and teriyaki chicken skewers. These were accompanied by simply stunning cocktails ranging from traditional favourites to signature drinks like the London Bridge Fizz, made with fresh fruit, cherry brandy crème de mure and champagne, and seasonal delights including the delicious kiwi daiquiri.
The Quarter Bar recently reopened after refurbishment, and now offers a relaxed and comfortable environment to enjoy drinks or dinner.
The stylish decor includes a beautiful pewter bar, lights made out of recycled decanters and comfortable armchairs for you to relax in after a day in the city.
Southwark is a delightful location for an evening walk down the Thames, with HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge and the tower itself all within easy walking distance there’s no shortage of places to stop for a drink and take in the stunning views.
The next morning presented a major challenge – escaping the London Bridge Hotel’s amazingly comfy bed in time for the top quality full English breakfast.
With only a limited amount of time before we had to catch our train back to Wales, we opted to take in a little culture by visiting the Tate Modern.
You can browse the exhibitions featuring works by the likes of Dali and Picasso as well as German photographic art from the early part of the last century.
Of particular note is the Yayoi Kusama exhibition where visitors can explore the maverick Japanese artist’s obsessive world. An installation made up of coloured LED lights suspended in a dark room with mirrored floors and walls leaves you feeling as if you are floating in an infinite void.
With such an array of activities within walking distance, there simply wasn’t time to do full justice to Southwark in our time there – but that only gives us a good reason to visit again, And I’d recommend you do too.