Nerd Travels: Pubs and Parks

For those of our readers interested in having a visit across the Pond, some of the most British things to do are to take a wander through one of London’s many beautiful parks or sit and have a chat with friends in a comfortable pub. So without any ado, here are a few of the Collected Mutineer’s and my favourite spots in jolly ole London town. -The Collectress

Gunnersbury Park

The Collectress and I discovered this park completely by accident while on an excursion to find lactose-free ice cream. (It’s a long story.) Although the trek ultimately proved meaningless, we liked this park so much that we returned a few times—we even took some pictures for Gishwhes there!

Gunnersbury, which is located just between Brentford and Acton (i.e. in Greater London), has a long and interesting history, which can still be glimpsed today. While several manors have been built on that land, the most famous was owned by Princess Amelia in the latter half of the 18th century. Although that house was eventually torn down, two new mansions took its place in the early 19th century. The larger of the two currently serves as the Gunnersbury Park Museum. The park also boasts a community garden, a children’s play area, an 18th century “temple” and a boathouse built in the Gothic style. -CM

Hyde Park

One of the largest parks in London, Hyde Park is famous for Speakers’ Corner– a place where anyone is allowed to speak publicly about almost anything (the police have been known to intervene in extreme cases). In the nineteenth century, the Chartist movement, of which author G.W.M. Reynolds was a major player, made much use of this area of the park to promote their politics. Nowadays, the park is one of the largest recreational areas in the Centre, and also borders Kensington Gardens. Be sure to see the Peter Pan statue, stroll along the Serpentine, and pay a visit to the Princess Diana of Wales Memorial Fountain (all pictured above). -TC

Regent’s Park

Regent’s Park holds fond memories for me, as one of my favourite GiShwHes 2015 items was filmed there. The park has a river, like Hyde Park, but also contains tennis courts, the London Zoo, and an open air theatre. Celebrities such as Tom Hiddleston and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers have been known to exercise in this park (I actually ran into the latter while dressed in GishWheS attire). -TC

Green Park

Green Park is perhaps best known for being right next to Buckingham Palace. Thousands of people walk through the park on their way from the tube station to the Canada Gate (pictured above), intent on getting a glimpse of the palace. While I like Buckingham very much, I think I’d rather spend my time in the park. Not only is it beautiful (and very green), but several interesting things happened on its 47 acres back in the day. In the late 1700s, it was a popular hangout for thieves and highwaymen, since it was on the outskirts of London. Horace Walpole, the father of Gothic literature, was famously robbed there. In later years, the park was also a famous dueling ground, where pissed off nobles could shoot at each other in broad daylight for the sake of chivalry and cajones. Visiting Green Park is easy, since it’s adjacent to St. James’s Park and Hyde Park, with various tube stations scattered among them. -CM

The Shakespeare

This pub has a resident cat. Enough said!

My cat-loving nature aside, The Shakespeare pub near the Barbican tube station has a wonderful ambiance. Large and welcoming, the walls showcase paintings of the Bard and his contemporaries. You can order a variety of beers, ales, and “Anglo-Italian” food. But perhaps the most interesting part about the pub is its location—it was built on the spot where London’s north gate was located when the city was walled. In fact, several ruins are visible in the area, and if you keep walking down the road to the Museum of London, you can see the remains of a tower of the Roman wall. Plus, there’s an entire walk dedicated to the Roman ruins. If I had it to do over again, I’d walk the ruins and finish it off with a nice pint at the Shakespeare. -CM

The Nags Head

Close to the Angel station in Islington, this pub was a late discovery of ours. It’s nestled next to the Angel Shopping Centre, and its cozy atmosphere is as inviting as the drinks are delicious. I’m particularly fond of the drink “The Botanist.” Two or three of those will cure you of all your daily stress, I promise! (Also, their fried calamari is delicious) -TC

The Sherlock Holmes Pub

holmes 1
via Geek Nation Tours

The Sherlock Holmes may not be located on Baker Street, but it is the perfect spot for a fan to grab some food and a refreshing pint. Just down the road from Trafalgar Square, The Sherlock Holmes is divided into a pub downstairs, and a restaurant upstairs. Head on up if you want to take a look at the Sherlockian display, or if you want a nice sit-down meal. Although you can order food downstairs, it can get very crowded while the restaurant is more low-key. Plus, the walls upstairs are decorated with Sherlock paraphernalia, including hand written letters, scripts, and old photographs.

They serve everything from Jeremy Brett’s homemade soup to Benedict Cumberbatch’s pulled pork burger. Almost everything on the menu is named after something from the Doyle canon, or after someone who has played the famous detective on film. I highly recommend the Toad in the Hole! If you want an authentic pub experience with a Holmesian twist, then this is the place for you. -CM

The Eagle and Child (aka The Bird and Baby)

via The Vancouver Sun

While this one is technically not in London, Oxford is scarcely an hour by train from Paddington Station, making “the Bird and Baby” a great weekend destination. Why this pub in Oxford, you might ask?

Well, once upon a time, a group of professors from Oxford would meet there and discuss literary works and their own writing. They called themselves “the Inklings,” and you might be familiar with a few of the works discussed in their informal pub meetings, such as C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia or J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Drop by for a pint and a piece of literary history. -TC

P.S. Something to keep in mind if you’re a newcomer to London—when getting food or drinks at a pub, you don’t wait for someone to come by your table. You order at the bar and tell them your table number. Also, remember that tipping isn’t customary in the UK, as gratuity is usually already factored into the prices or your final bill. -CM