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July 2012
London Calling
Vidya Singh
After 64 odd years, London plays host to the Olympic Games. It’s Jolly Old England again! Fun, euphoria, tourists, great food and a paradise for walkers... Apart from the fervour of the Games, here are the other reasons why you should be in London this summer.

To experience the beauty and serenity of the parks laid out all over the city. I have been drawn to them through these past 37 years or so, sometimes to run or walk, often with my children when they were young, boating in the Serpentine or feeding the ducks and swans, or just walking with friends through the parks. Summer is a season of warmth and sunshine. It’s also a great relief from rainy London. Expect a lot of beauty and greenery, while taking a walk or sprinting through these parks.

A great destination for exotic food right from Hampstead to Covent Gardens and in between – this should be the next best reason to draw you to London this July and August. So, while you make the most from eating and shedding those pounds, discover some interesting places to visit right here!

Hyde Park
Of all the parks in London, this has to be my personal favourite! The land for this park was originally acquired by Henry VIII for hunting! During the 16th and 17th centuries, it was used for military reviews. You can start your the walk along the Park Lane end of the park. You might just notice soccer team training on the central lawns! This tree-lined path ends on a turn that will take you along the Knightsbridge side. Here, the path hugs the mud horse trail famously named Rotten Row on one side and goes down to the lake on the other side. Don’t be surprised to brush shoulders with horse riders, or squirrels, ducks and Canadian wild geese all over the pathway! Then you’d run onto the Serpentine Bridge, over the Serpentine Lake. The trail meanders till you reach the Bayswater side of the park from where you can make your way up towards Marble Arch again.

Hampstead Heath
If you are looking for an invigorating one-hour walk – the Hampstead Heath it is! This park entails pathways bordered by tall trees. The Heath in Hampstead is the closest thing you can get to a ‘Country’ in London and it is left largely wild and unstructured. It is bordered on all sides by beautiful houses, and even includes late Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s home, where he lived when he was in London. The beautiful mansion, “Kenwood House” and its grounds are on one side and are open to public as well. The trail is tedious, as the Heath is fairly challenging; it sits atop hills with deep valleys. The pathway will lead you up to Parliament Hill from where you can look down on the meadows. On the walk downhill, you will pass by a pond and then take a gentle slope into a thickly wooded area. The path is dark, as the trees are very tall. A final meadow with a stream running through it will lead you back towards the place by which you entered the Heath.

Primrose Hill
You can enter the park from Primrose Hill Road. This is a fairly structured park that gives you a challenging walk as it takes you up an extremely high hill. There are beautiful houses bordering the edges of this park. The walk takes you down a gentle slope till you reach Prince Albert Road at the bottom. An utterly quaint, red-bricked cottage, which goes as the abode of the park’s keeper also lies here. Thereon, you pass the children’s playground and at the end, turn again to walk up to the highest point of Primrose Hill. The path begins gradually and becomes steeper and steeper, until with a final push, your heart and lungs pumping, you reach the top, to be rewarded with magnificent views of what feels like all of London, laid out in front of you! The vista shows St Marks Church and at a distance the beautiful dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Goldfish (Hampstead High Street)
Hampstead is one of the most charming areas of North London that has managed to retain its village like atmosphere! Lunch at the very trendy Chinese restaurant Goldfish is simple and outstanding. Tuck into a mixed dim sum selection served with sauces. The wild mushroom soup is full of flavour. Egg fried rice is mildly flavoured and the Ma Po Tofu that melts in the mouth.Crabmeat sweet corn soup and Chilly Beef are their signature dishes.

Wagamama (Corner of Wigmore Street and Duke Street)
Positive eating and positive living are their mantra! Shopping in Oxford Street can be very hard work and when you are tired, healthy food makes up for all the energy lost! Oriental, with a healthy twist, is the credo at Wagamama’s. Gyozo Dumpling with chilly oil is a perfect starter. Yasai Yaki Soba, delicious mouthfuls of Teppan-fried whole-wheat noodles made with egg, bean sprouts, peppers, spring onions, mushrooms, garlic garnished with fried shallots, pickled ginger, sesame seeds and coriander vinegar – all make it a yummy and healthy treat!

Beyoglu, Belsize Village(A walk away from Primrose Hil and Regent’s Park)
Beyoglu is a grill and mezze bar that is usually packed to capacity in the evenings. If the proof of the pudding lies in the eating, this restaurant doesn’t need any endorsements – the sheer number of customers will suffice. Get started with the Turkish wine, Yakut, which has a soft and crispy flavour. Follow it up with a mixed mezze grill which is a vast choice of lamb chops, chicken wings and ribs, accompanied by bowls of Cacik yoghurt and cucumber, Hummus chick peas, Taramas cod roe, Havwc carrot and fresh, hot, whole wheat pita bread that is deliciously chewy. Try the Enginar, which is artichoke cooked in virgin olive oil with onions, carrots, potatoes, broad beans and pesto! End with Baklava – a Turkish delight, not forgetting the Turkish coffee.

The Olympic Stadium which will be the venue of the athletic events and the opening and closing ceremonies during the games at London between this July 27 and August 12. The eco-engineered stadium has a seating capacity of 80,000.
Vidya Singh is Sports and Fitness Enthusiast, Chennai.

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