An American’s guide to getting by in London

London is quite often the first destination for Americans when venturing over to Europe for the first time. If you are visiting for the first time, you may be basing your expectations on the many movies and television shows that make their way westward to the land of the free. However, it’s one thing seeing London through your television, but it’s quite another finding yourself in one of its many magical underground networks, tourist hotspots and hidden gems.

To help our American guests, the team here at our boutique hotel in Chelsea have put together an American’s guide to London with some top tips to help you make the most of your trip across the pond.

A Quick and honest lowdown on the Local Tourist Attractions

London has no shortage of incredible attractions, but also no shortage on tourist traps: Madame Tussaud’s (fun, but expect long queues), Buckingham Palace (simply a must), the Changing of the Guard (you won’t see much because of the sea of people). St Paul’s Cathedral (London’s best cathedral), Westminster Abbey (oozes Royal history), the London Eye (stunning views), Tower of London (more oozing history), Covent Garden (an abundance of shopping and food in quirky arcades and cobbled streets), The Monument (a historic relic in the heart of the City and Tower Bridge (the most iconic bridge in the world),.

If you are travelling with children, we’ve created a handy family-friendly guide to Chelsea.

Navigating the Tube

Navigating the London Tube system can seem a little intimidating at first. It’s all very simple once you get used to it and very little room for error. We recommend you pick up one of the many available maps to study your tube route before you travel, this should make it easier – but there’s also lots of staff on hand to point you in the right direction too.

Always keep to the right on escalators and if you don’t have a contactless debit card then buy yourself an Oyster card before you travel. This is both cheaper than a daily travel card and can also be used on busses. These can be bought from VisitBritain Direct or from the station upon arrival.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the Tube map can distort distances, so check your guidebook (or ask a local, we are awfully polite) to make sure you need to take the Tube – for example, Leicester Square Tube Station is just a stone’s throw from Covent Garden Tube Station, so sometimes it’s good to get above ground, stretch those legs and see the sights.

Tips for Tea

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the British love a good cup of tea. Not only does it play a huge part in the national culture, but it is also entwined in the country’s international reputation. But for the average coffee drinker in America, this can be a hard concept to wrap one’s head around.

English Breakfast tea is as English as it sounds: this is the type of tea you are most likely to encounter. It’s based on a blend of black teas, and is often described as “robust” and “full bodied”. It is also designed to go well with milk. If you ever have a traditional British ‘Full English Breakfast’, this is the accompanying tea you will drink with your meal.

Earl Grey tea is named after a former British Prime Minister who happened to particularly enjoy the blend. This tea has a delicate and slightly citrusy flavour derived from the bergamot extract used in its processing. Earl Grey can be enjoyed without milk and with a slice of lemon, it not considered to have as strong a flavour as English Breakfast tea.

Afternoon tea refers to the British tradition of enjoying a pot of tea accompanied by a selection of small cakes, scones with jam, and finger sandwiches in the late afternoon. Originally a private social event that occurred within residential spaces, these days you’re most likely to find afternoon is a public and social occasion. If you are interested in the history of this great British tradition, read our brief history of the afternoon tea.

Although this longstanding tradition has been enjoyed for many years, we must confess that none quite compare to the delights you will find whilst enjoying our afternoon tea in Chelsea at The Draycott Hotel, located in the heart of the exclusive Sloane Square.

Getting Up Close & Colloquial

We English are chuffed to bits (very excited) to teach you some lemon squeezy (easy) Cockney rhyming slang (London phrases). Here are some helpful terms to help you to not lose the plot (go crazy) when conversing with your new Gareth Gates (mates) or when you are trying to have a butcher’s (look) for our boutique hotel in Chelsea. It will be a doddle! (It will be easy!)

The origins of Cockney rhyming slang are uncertain. It’s not recognised as a real language because the words spoken are clearly English. But, on the other hand, it’s not a dialect either, as the speakers of this slang are also perfectly capable of not using it. This slang originated from market vendors trying to communicate without the customers knowing what was being said (you wouldn’t want your customers knowing that you were going to lower your prices in ten minutes so that you could go home nice and early).

“Let’s have a chin-wag.” Although quite self-explanatory, having a “chinwag” means that you’re having a brief chat or gossip with someone. Just imagine a chin wagging up and down, and you’ll get the idea why.

“I’m chuffed to bits.” If you’re “chuffed to bits,” it means that you’re thrilled or happy about something. It’s also acceptable to say “chuffed” all on its own: “I’ve just scored free tickets to the Proms in the Park concert, and I’m well chuffed!” Or “I’m chuffed to bits, I’ve just seen some incredible offers at my favourite boutique hotel in Chelsea!”

So, there you have it, a breakdown of British culture, London locations, tea and travel. But don’t just take our word for it – try it for yourself when you visit our boutique hotel in Chelsea! 

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