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London: Best places for afternoon tea

By Alex Robinson
January 27, 2022
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Courtesy <a href="http://mybt.budgettravel.com/_Afternoon-tea-at-Claridges/PHOTO/6904330/21864.html">vancouvergirl/myBudgetTravel</a>

The top traditional places downtown for afternoon tea are Browns (brownshotel.com) which won the Tea Guild's award for the best tea in the capital in 2009 and the Dorchester (thedorchester.com). Both are expensive at around $50, and whilst you don't have to dress up to the nines, they are conservative establishments where people talk in hushed tones.

Personally, I'd opt for somewhere cheaper, younger and less stuffy. Go to Bloomsbury (a neighborhood near the British Museum, made famous by the Virginia Woolf and her literary set) and drop into Bea's (beasofbloomsbury.com), which offer sumptuous cakes and tea in a little café for around $12. And whilst it's a 40-minute subway trip from the city center near the Canary Wharf financial district, the Mudchute Kitchen (mudchutekitchen.org) has generous farmhouse teas with a strong brew and cream cakes, on a 32-acre urban farm, also for around $12. It's cozy spot, and kids are welcome as well.

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Pinkies In! London Teatime Etiquette

Budget Travel's London City Page

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San Francisco: 5 Best February Values

Tour Chinatown's bakeries Start the Chinese New Year (Feb. 14 this year) out right by visiting two Chinatown bakeries that still make fortune cookies the old-fashioned way: by hand. Stop by Mee Mee Bakery or the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, located in Chinatown's oldest alley, to watch a free demo. While you're there, pick up a bag of fortune cookies&mdash;a perfect souvenir to share (or not). Reservations not needed. Mee Mee Bakery, 1328 Stockton Street, 415/362-3204. $3 for a bag of cookies, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, 56 Ross Alley, 415/781-3956, $1 for a bag of cookies, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. everyday. l See Kermit Lynch at Omnivore Books On Feb. 20, the famed Berkeley wine importer Kermit Lynch, whose wine business earned him France's highest national decoration&mdash;the Legion d'honneur&mdash;will be hosting a free wine tasting and reading. Sample the latest vino discoveries while Lynch reads from two of his books, Adventures on the Wine Route and Inspiring Thirst. The event is being held at Omnivore, Noe Valley's book store dedicated to all things food, where the collection of vintage cookbooks (including the first-edition signed copy of Chez Paniesse Desserts) is worth a browse in itself. The hour-long event begins at 5 p.m., 3885 Cesar Chavez Street, omnivorebooks.com, 415/282-4712 San Francisco IndieFest's Big Lebowski Party at CellSpace The annual film festival launches Feb. 4 and features award-winning independent films like Wah Do Dem (with Norah Jones) and Harmony and Me. Each film is $10. Be sure to buy tickets in advance, since this festival, which has premiered big films in the past from indie favorites like David Lynch and Gus Van Sant, draws crowds. Additionally, The Big Lebowski Party on Feb. 12 is always a highlight, complete with white Russians, mini-bowling, a trampoline, and a costume contest (expect plenty of bathrobe-clad Dudes) held at the arts co-operative CellSpace. Save 5 bucks if you show up in costume. Film Festival February 4th-18th, at a variety of locations. $10 tickets. Big Lebowski Party starts at 9 p.m., 2050 Bryant Street, 415/648-7562, $10 ($5 in costume); free with Indie Film fest ticket stub. $3 Moonlight Martinis at the Cliff House Sutro's bar at the Cliff House has floor-to-ceiling windows directly overlooking the Pacific ocean, the famous Seal Rocks, and the Sutro Bath ruins, making it a perennial favorite among visitors and locals alike. It's the perfect spot to end up after an afternoon hiking the rocky shoreline at the Presidio's Land's End or visiting the Camera Obscura. Try visiting on a weeknight (Sunday through Thursday) to get the most bang for your buck&mdash;$3 Skyy and Tanquery martinis (usually $8) mean you can still afford a cab ride back. 1090 Point Lobos, 415/386-3330, 6- 10 p.m. $5 stand-up at the Clubhouse Clubhouse, a downtown underground Comedy Club, features some of the best up-and-coming local stars, like Ali Mafi and Nico Santos. Normally, these comedians perform at high-priced clubs like Cobb's or the Punch Line&mdash;but at Clubhouse, see them for a fraction of the price. The BYOB policy creates a no-holds-barred atmosphere where comics can test new material and crack jokes too off-color for the mainstream. 414 Mason St., 415-921-2051, Tuesdays through Sundays, tickets start at $5. Just back from San Francisco? Going there soon? Leave your recommendations, comments, and questions on our city page.

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San Francisco: Night at the museum

We're seeing a trend of nighttime museum parties here in San Francisco&mdash;think of them more as chic cocktail parties than those Ben Stiller mega-movies. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the SF MOMA are famous for occasional opening-night parties, which draw a who's-who crowd of local artists, musicians, and philanthropists (with its 75th Anniversary, the SF MOMA's parties are getting particularly scene-y). But other museums are jumping on the after-hours bandwagon, hoping to attract new visitors with cash bars, dance floors, club music, live performances, and special exhibits. Every Thursday night, the California Academy of Sciences rolls out internationally renowned DJs like Jeff Stallings, plus appetizers, a cash bar, and a dance floor, creating a party zone in the academy's four-story rainforest, hands-on insect lab, and aquarium (reader dcaliendo recommends it as a must-see anytime). This month's eclectic mix of events include a pre-party for music festival NoisePop (Feb. 18), featuring live performances by local experimental groups the Frail and Brookhaven. 21 and over. 6-10 p.m. $12. 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, 415/ 379-8000. Kids get to stay up late too during Friday Nights at the de Young. Music, poetry, films, dancing, interactive art projects, cocktails (for adults only, of course) and a special dinner are all on the docket. This month's calendar features a Mission-style Carnivale party with projected images of murals and street art, headdress-making, and Latin music. Feb. 5, 5-8:45 p.m., $10 adults, $6 youth and students, free for children under 13. Dinner and drinks not included. 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park, 415/ 750-3600. The "After Dark" parties at the Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum located next to the Palace of Fine Arts on the Presidio, happen the first Thursday of every month. Each event explores a different theme through film screenings, exhibits, performances, and talks. Appropriately, this month's theme is sex. The wild night will feature bull testicle dissections (you'll definitely want a cocktail before that), a Condom Couture Fashion Show, and take-apart sex toys. March's "Distortion" night will have visual music and psychedelic animation. February 4, 6&ndash;10 p.m. $15. 3601 Lyon Street, 415/ 561-0360.

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London: 5 best February values

London's quiet in February. So it's a good time to see things which get busy the rest of the year. There are some new openings, too. Havana Rakatan - Cuban Dance on Valentine's night With most event on or around Valentine's night costing upwards of $80, this Cuban street ballet and live music spectacular from Havana choreographer Nilda Guerra and son band Turquino offers great value at around $25 for a ticket for front-and-center seats. On selected nights, the price includes a free post-show dance class. At the Peacock Theater, Sadler's Wells. sadlerswells.com The Changing of the Guard Every morning at 10:28 a.m. (9:28 on a Sunday), mounted ceremonial guardsmen leave Hyde Park Barracks for the Queen's residence at Buckingham Palace where they change sentry posts in one of London's most famous daily displays of pomp and pageantry. The soldiers take 40 minutes to perform the changing of the guard ceremony, marching up and down in their scarlet coats with sparkling buttons and their towering furry hats, accompanied by a booming military band. Most months of the year the rails around the palace are choc-a-bloc with flashing tourist cameras. But it's almost tourist-free in February and its free. Be at Buckingha.m. Palace (subway- Green Park) at 11:30 to see the show and at Hyde Park Barracks at 10:20 to follow the soldiers to the palace. royal.gov.uk The Real Van Gogh The first major Van Gogh exhibition in London for over 40 years is on at the Royal Academy of Arts in the city center until April. The exhibition marries painting and drawing (with over a hundred of Vah Gogh's art works) with 35 of the Van Gogh's letters, rarely exhibited to the public due to their fragility, and offering a unique insight into the artist's tortured psychology. Tickets are $12.50 with a student card and the price includes a $4 exhibition guidebook. royalacademy.org.uk Oh You Pretty Things! Fashion Photography for free This free Central London exhibition showcases the work of five from a new generation of exciting British fashion photographers who include Alice Hawkins who has shot some of the most iconic images of recent years for i-D magazine, and snapper of the moment, Josh Olins, who shot the recent 'Seven Wonders of Fashion' series for British Vogue. springprojects.co.uk Emily Prince and India at the Saatchi Gallery London's foremost contemporary art collector and champion of the YBAs, or Young British Artists (who include Damien Hirst), opened the city's most prestigious private contemporary art gallery in late 2008. It's housed in a surprisingly understated neo-classical edifice whose capacious and minimalist interior shows some of the city's most experimental and challenging exhibitions. There are two free exciting exhibitions on display this month, both of which have garnered favourable reviews: Emily Prince: American Servicemen and Women Who Have Died in Iraq and Afghanistan (But Not Including the Wounded, nor the Iraqis nor the Afghans) 2004 to Present and The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today. saatchi-gallery.co.uk MORE Ask Alex a question about planning a trip to London on our London city page What's Better than Buckingham Palace?

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Rome: 5 best February values

Join the Carnival celebrations Rome is embracing its carnevale traditions for the first time in centuries. The events lineup, spanning February 6 to 16, includes costume parties, musical performances, butteri (equestrian shows by Tuscan cowboys), and a parade in Piazza Venezia on February 14. Fireworks will cascade over the Pincio Hill, near the Piazza del Popolo, on Carnival, February 16. Free. Dance and photography take center stage There's always something noteworthy happening at the Renzo Piano-designed Auditorium Parco della Musica. It just launched Equilibrio, a month-long contemporary dance festival, while February 18 to 21 brings an exhibition with photos, food, and films related to Gran Sasso National Park. If you're looking for something to do this weekend, Sunday, February 7, is the last chance to skate at the Auditorium's outdoor rink. viale Pietro de Coubertin 30, 011-39/06-8024-1281. Equilibrio tickets from &euro;2, exhibition free, skating rentals &euro;8. 2-for-1 admission on Valentine's Day Rome's National Museums (Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, the Baths of Diocletian, Crypta Balbi) and several archaeological sites, including the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Villa dei Quintili, are treating couples to 2-for-1 admission on February 14. Museums open 9am-7:45pm (last entrance one hour before closing. Archeological sites open 9am-4:30pm (last entrance one hour before closing). Museum admission &euro;7; admission for archaeological sites, &euro;6 to 12. Spend a Sunday at Caffarella Park Less than two miles from the Colosseum and Circus Maximus, the vast Caffarella is home to grazing sheep, Roman ruins, and bike paths. Each Sunday in February, park authorities are organizing games, walks through the park, and bike rides geared to local children. It's a unique way for travelers to mingle with local families, and the idyllic setting is a welcome change of pace from the traffic of the city. Events are free, bike rentals &euro;3 per hour. Organized visits begin at 10am on Sundays, but the park is open from 8am until one hour before sunset daily. Michelangelo's monumental vision The Capitoline Museums' annex plays host to an exhibit on the architecture of Michelangelo through February 21. It counts more than 100 drawings, prints, letters, and models related to St Peter's Basilica, Palazzo Farnese, and Piazza del Campidoglio, designed during the artist's nearly forty years in Rome. Keep an eye out for signed drawings and two portraits of Michelangelo. Piazza del Campidoglio, open Tues-Sun 9 a.m.-8 p.m., admission &euro;6. PLUS Going to Rome soon? Ask Katie a question on our Rome city page!

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