Even More London Questions
April 29, 2009 8:04 AM   Subscribe

I'm heading to London at the end of June. Thanks to the green (and the "London" tag) I know where I'm staying and where I'm going to eat. But I have a few random, oddball questions...

I spent 2 days in London in 1987, so this is more-or-less my first visit. We're staying at Base2Stay in Kensington. Questions:

- Where should we go to see a neo-burlesque show? I found some listings, but I was wondering if anyone had any particularly recommended performers or venues.

- I'm worried that I don't have any appropriate clothing. My husband and I dress like the aging Gen-X goth-punk hipsters we are…jeans or shorts, t-shirts, and Chuck Taylors. We're not planning on going to any 4-star restaurants, but are there places where that going to be a problem? (Also, I have tattoos that are visible in sleeveless tops. Will people think I'm skeezy?)

- We're thinking of checking out Slimelight. Is the neighborhood OK? How hard is it to get a cab after the Tube closes?

- Any other "inside tips"? (Local example…if you come to DC and get on the Metro, you should stand to the right on the escalators or you'll get run over.)
posted by JoanArkham to Travel & Transportation around London, England (27 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
For something more varied that might include neo-burlesque, you might try Duckie.
Also Bistrotheque has various draggy/burlesquey entertainment.
More straight up neo burlesque comes from Gwendoline Lamour and various nights at Madame JoJo's.

Slimelight is in Islington, which is posh (Tony Blair had a house there for many years), so no worries on safety. Cabs are not too too bad to find, and there are also night buses.

Your looks/attire sound totally fine. London is not at all formal, at least not for the kind of activities it sounds like you'll plan on doing.

You can probably pick up all the insider tips you need from the other threads: Get an Oyster Card, buy an A to Z, go to Borough Market, etc.
posted by cushie at 8:18 AM on April 29, 2009

Don't wear shorts, and you'll be fine. Other than that I doubt you will probably not feel uncomfortable wearing jeans and T-shirts and showing your tattoos at any type of establishment that you would not have felt uncomfortable in Stateside.

Yes, stand on the right in the Tube as well. There are often signs reminding you to do this. In general, don't dawdle in the Tube.

Get an Oyster card. It will have paid for itself after two trips, and is a refundable £3. Paper Tube tickets are expensive! Although if you are planning to travel somewhere by rail as well as Tube on a particular day it may be in your interest to buy a paper TravelCard.

Make sure you get a good walking street map. I like this one a lot. You will see a lot more and save time/money if you travel on the surface sometimes. The Tube map can be deceptive.

Also, thanks for asking a focused question, it definitely motivates me to respond a little more.
posted by grouse at 8:19 AM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Hello, hope you enjoy your trip!

In order:

- Check out Shunt Vaults - it's an amazing venue anyway, and the stuff they do falls into that sort of realm. Nothing up for June yet, but keep an eye on it.

- Don't worry about clothing, this is London, people wear everything from ultra-whacky to bowler and tie. No-one will blink twice. And who cares about your tattoos? If you're hanging around somewhere like Camden or Shoreditch you'd stick out if you didn't have some kind of tattooo, and even in the City no-one will bat an eyelid.

The only place where the Chucks and Jeans combos may be an issue is some West End nightclubs, but since they're bloody horrible meat markets that cost a bomb to get into, I doubt you'd be going anyway.

- Slimelight is in Angel, which is safe, central and has a thriving nightlife. Check out Indian Veg for amazing, super-cheap and nutritious Indian vegetarian food while you're in the neighbourhood. Tube trains run until 12.30ish during the week, and 1.30ish at weekends. Black cabs are tough to get around pub kicking out time (11 - 12pm) and again when many mainstream clubs close (3-4am). Slimelight is open til 7.30am, so just stick around til 5ish and you'll have no bother getting a cab. Night buses also run all night, about every half hour, and are plentiful.

- Local tips:
* Stand on the right on the escalators, or walk quickly up or down the left.
* If you're lost, take a smart step out of the flow of people before consulting guidebooks or maps.
* Buy an A-Z the day you arrive (£5 from any newsagent) and use it (Tube map on the back)
* Rush hour is 7.30am - 9.30am in the morning and 5.30pm - 7.30pm in the evening, avoid both times of day if you can help it.
* Travel in the following order of preference - walking, buses, tubes. Central London is waaay smaller than you'd think, and buses are both plentiful and often fill in the gaps in the Tube network.
* Buy an Oyster card at the tube station when you arrive, and put a weekly (or monthly if you're staying that long) pass on it at the topup machine. It's cheaper and more flexible than Pay As You Go or cash. You don't need any ID or proof of residence to do this.

Get in touch with the local MeFites and have a meetup - any excuse for a pint and a natter round here.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:31 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Please strike the words "I doubt" from my previous comment, which make no sense.
posted by grouse at 8:42 AM on April 29, 2009

I'll add to the Oyster Card chorus.

Also, if you're doing tourist-y things and want to check out Westminster Abbey, go for Evensong. It's free, jeans and T-shirts and tattoos will be fine, and you get an amazing view of the cathedral whilst hearing some ace singing. Great regardless of your a-/mono-/poly-/pan-theist leanings.

The London Time Out is good for listings. Also, the city has 3 free papers, which are journalistically barren but have good listings. You can find them - the London Paper, London Lite, and Metro - at most tube stations.

If you're looking for 'hipster' venues, then check out White Heat on Tuesdays at Madame Jojos in Soho. All sorts of noise rock/avant-pop/self-taking-too-seriously stuff to be had there.

Within a very short walk of each other in SE1 are the Tate Modern, the Thames, Millenium Bridge, St Paul's Cathedral, the National Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe and the British Film Institute. There's a great evening to be had round here - one of those areas where on Summer evenings it's about 50/50 tourists/regular-Londoners.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 8:58 AM on April 29, 2009

I hope this isn't too obvious (and apologise if it is) but when you get onto a Tube platform, keep walking till you're near the end of it. The carriages towards either end of the train have more seats than the ones in the middle.

Nthing Oyster card and avoiding rush hour travel suggestions.

Jeans / t-shirts - definitely not a problem.

(This may not be up your street but one of my favourite things to do in summer here is go see something at Shakespeare's Globe. Their annual theatre season just started.)

Have fun. I love this city! I hope that you enjoy your stay.
posted by Ziggy500 at 9:11 AM on April 29, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! Not marking faves, since this is all good!

We're doing the Globe for sure, probably with "groundling" tickets. I'm assuming jeans/t-shirts are OK for that, and we will refrain from throwing vegetables or making bawdy comments to the actors. :)

Sounds like the Oyster is very similar to the Metro SmarTrip but with better features and more discounts. I'm still unsure if we should go for a 7-day or just pay as we go. (We're getting in early Wednesday morning and leaving Sunday afternoon.) We love city walking, so that will certainly be our first choice.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:34 AM on April 29, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, and is this the A-Z I should look for?
posted by JoanArkham at 9:39 AM on April 29, 2009

Just a note, if you do go to Shunt vaults avoid Saturday night, it rocks but the queue is hours long without a membership card.

There's also often neo-burlesque in Bethnal Green Working Men's Club - hipster hangout in the east. Check the weekly lisitngs for info.
posted by freya_lamb at 9:44 AM on April 29, 2009

I'm assuming jeans/t-shirts are OK for that, and we will refrain from throwing vegetables or making bawdy comments to the actors. :)

I think you'll find your fellow groundlings might actually be doing just those things. Maybe not the vegetables, but I've heard crowds at the Globe described as 'pretty authentic and loud', so have fun!

I'm still unsure if we should go for a 7-day or just pay as we go. (We're getting in early Wednesday morning and leaving Sunday afternoon.) We love city walking, so that will certainly be our first choice.

Hmm, so you'll be there for five days. I'd say in 5 days, if you took an average of three tube journeys and a couple of bus rides per day, you'd be looking at about £12 worth of pre-pay travel each over the five days, not counting your tube/train in from Heathrow (which will run you £6 or so). A week pass is roughly double that at a shade over £25. But you can use all overground trains (some routes don't take pre-pay), get a discount on riverboats and you won't need to track your expenditure. If you think you'll take more journeys than my guesstimates, go for the 7 day pass. Get Zone 1 and 2 only.

Oh, and is this the A-Z I should look for?

Nah, you want this fella.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:56 AM on April 29, 2009

probably with "groundling" tickets
These are awesome. the first time I went I wondered if I would be comfy for the whole play but it was fabulous. Also, if you are very near the stage, you are really close to the action. A friend of mine nearly got a lobotomy from Bolingbroke's sword, which was cool in a scaryway.

Happy Dave is correct; I found the map indispensible. Walking is a great plan, but having the pass is great because you can hop a bus if you're tired or the weather turns foul or you just want to take a ride to see some random neighborhood, hop off and walk for a block or two, and hop back on. Have a great time!
posted by pointystick at 10:41 AM on April 29, 2009

Despite the many recommendations for the A-Z, I will again recommend the Bensons MapGuide products. I had both when I lived in southeast England, and generally found the Bensons far friendier and more useful for touristing in central London. Of course, it doesn't cover as big an area as the A-Z, so might be less useful in, say, even Islington.

Of course, I love maps so I usually brought both with me on trips to London.
posted by grouse at 10:57 AM on April 29, 2009

I haven't been to Slimelight in years, but from what I gather they only do old-school (Bauhaus/Xymox/Sisters) stuff every other week. There is a Facebook group for keeping track of when that is (this probably works too). Some people manage to go to the monthly Vagabonds and then onto Slimelight later.
Unless things have changed, there are usually unlicensed minicabs waiting right outside of Slimelight, and they will (it being their regular pickup point) usually give you a fair price to wherever you're going. I've never had a problem there or getting a (n unlicensed minicab) booked by walking into a minicab office except once outside another club when the driver decided halfway home that he'd jack up the price and drop us in the middle of nowhere if we didn't agree. SL should be safe, booking one elsewhere by walking into a minicab office and agreeing a price beforehand should be safe, but just getting one outside another club might have that small risk. And if you smoke, SL is possibly the most inconvenient place to be a smoker.

No flash photography in Tube stations, especially oncoming trains.

If you're thinking of going shopping in Camden on a weekend just shoot yourself in the head now go as early as possible because it will be an unholy mob in summer. I hear the Dev is still reasonably enjoyable but it could change management 3 times before you get there.
posted by K.P. at 11:52 AM on April 29, 2009

As for the clothes: just imagine you're in Washington, DC or NYC.

I don't even agree with "don't wear shorts." You might stand out as American. But London is full of Americans! Americans don't stand out in London, and there's nothing wrong with being American. I personally don't like shorts (even in America, even in hot weather) but you're allowed to do anything you want.

Again, going on a trip to London is roughly like going on a trip to NYC. Don't feel like you have to live up to a Hollywood expectation of what "London" people are like -- it's just normal life.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:03 PM on April 29, 2009

Use buses (especially the upper level on double-deckers) as much as possible, and avoid the Tube unless you're in a big hurry. Buses are much cheaper, you see A LOT MORE of the city by bus, and the Tube is hot, smelly and crowded during rush hour (i.e. most of the day).
posted by randomstriker at 12:45 PM on April 29, 2009

My mother and I found that a week's ride all you can pass on Oyster was completely worth it - stuff in London is more spread out than you might think (easily 1/2 hour to an hour walking between sites), so even if you are a good walker it's nice just to jump on and off buses and tubes whenever you feel like it, and save your energy for walking around museums and standing at venues. We rode the tube or bus 4-6 times a day.

If you do use pay-as-you-go, it will max out at the same level as a ride-anywhere pass for one day (for however many zones you have travelled in). If you plan to be there 5-7 days, and you max out most of them, it will probably be cheaper to get the 7-day pass (it was in 2007 when my mum and I did). But if you have whole days when you won't be in London (in Windsor, for example), or you expect to ride only 1-2 times a day, then pay-as-you-go might be better.

But something to think about is the psychological side: when travelling, I'll often get a ride-all-you-can pass just so that I'm not tempted to ruin my trip by being too cheap to get on a bus and then find that my feet hurt too much to tour what I want to see, or by falling asleep at a concert (this has happened - great music, but I walked too much getting there). If you don't have this problem, then don't worry. But having a pass takes away any even inkling of doubt as to whether to get on a bus/tube or not, if you are prone to such money saving moments.

Oyster rules. And I regret not riding the bus more than tube when I was last in London - it is much better. But the tube is easier to navigate (especially if you are familier with the lines, as I was). Get a good bus map for downtown.
posted by jb at 1:33 PM on April 29, 2009

Oh - on the clothing side. Never had a problem with this (I wear long sleeves), but it's always a good idea to have a shawl or something to cover up your arms when going into churches. Less of a problem in Britain than somewhere like Italy, since most old churches are Anglican, but you never know. Same goes for shorts - if you are the British Museum or the Tower of London, no problem, but it would feel weird in St Pauls. (Maybe I just take sacred spaces very seriously).

Also, weather in Britain can be very changeable - one day can be 80, and the next day 60; and air-conditioning can also be cold anywhere. If you are at all susceptible to cold, you may want to make sure you carry a shawl/sweater that is good for a damp cold (50s-60s, even in summer), also an umbrella or light rain-proof jacket. Wool is awesome - it is both warm, and slightly waterproof. There is a reason the Brits have worn wool for millennia, and aren't fond of shorts. If you are coming from DC, the weather will be cooler than you are used to in June, especially at night.
posted by jb at 1:42 PM on April 29, 2009

Another DC-native, London-based goth sort here.

First of all, EVERYONE'S tattooed here, so don't worry.

If there's a Vagabonds while you're here, go. It's a friendly club in a charming venue; the music is allsorts and the bar staff are great. It's down by London Bridge, so you can go along after a day shopping at Borough Food Market and seeing a play at the Globe.

You may also like White Mischief, a steampunk-inspired night with some neo-burlesque entertainments. The Electric Ballroom in Camden has regular goth nights; also check out Tanz Macabre and Invocation. (Tanz is right across the street from Garlic and Shots on Frith Street in Soho-- they serve food with garlic in it and vodka shots and that's it. Goth/punk hipsters welcome; tattoos only a problem if you feel you don't have enough.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:40 PM on April 29, 2009

Response by poster: Much, much awesomeness here. Thanks again everyone!
posted by JoanArkham at 4:58 PM on April 29, 2009

Damn. La Clique was the highlight of my honeymoon in October, but it sounds like it's closing mid-June.
posted by santojulieta at 7:02 PM on April 29, 2009

- We're thinking of checking out Slimelight. Is the neighborhood OK? How hard is it to get a cab after the Tube closes?

Just a note, don't wear blue jeans if you go here because they won't let you in.
posted by atrazine at 6:01 AM on April 30, 2009

Clothes: London is a modern city in the Western world; nobody will have any problem with whatever you choose to wear as long as you wear something.
Slimes: Cabs are plentiful everywhere in London but are ridiculously expensive - the tube will be open by 06:30 anyway. If you prefer a bus, they are excellent value and the journey is simple back to Base2Stay. Just take the N19, N38 or N73 to Hyde Park Corner (hard to miss) then the N74 or N97 back to your room. As for the neighbourhood - you'll struggle to find anywhere unsafe in London unless you really are going out to look for it.
posted by turkeyphant at 6:40 AM on April 30, 2009

Atrazine's point about Slimelight is a good one-- most goth clubs, though they may not have a specific dress code, will have a person on the door checking that you're an actual goth. Black jeans are OK; blue jeans might be a problem; metric tonnage of eyeliner covers a multitude of sins.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:19 AM on April 30, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, I would never wear jeans clubbing. I have that covered. :)

Hope I didn't offend anyone asking about clothing, I know London isn't all bowlers and tiaras. DC is kind of conservative vs. NYC, and I guess I was wondering if London was more DC-ish or NYC-ish.
posted by JoanArkham at 7:45 AM on April 30, 2009

London is definitely more NYC-ish.

The last time I was in Slimelight a couple of months ago, there were a couple of cabs lined up outside the street waiting for people to leave. I think.
posted by almostwitty at 8:49 AM on April 30, 2009

DC is kind of conservative vs. NYC, and I guess I was wondering if London was more DC-ish or NYC-ish.

The thing is: when I say it's like NYC, I mean it's so eclectic and cosmopolitan that none of this matters. I don't mean there's some specific style that you should fit into if you're going to NYC or London. I mean you should do whatever you want. Nobody is going to care.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:26 PM on April 30, 2009

What Jaltcoh said.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:09 AM on May 1, 2009

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