Updated: Feb 15
When you've been in the game as long as I have, you get to see the sights, hear the sounds and smell everything great (and not so great) in this city.
Let me take you on a journey around the capital, giving you my top picks for places to stay, places to eat and drink, and things to do. There's so much in this great city, so whilst I can't promise I'll cover everything, I'll certainly let you know my favourites. Hopefully, you'll try our my recommendations, or at least it'll spark some inspiration to journey to some places not so well known and others away from the beaten track.
Right, forget finding a taxi in London today. My cab engine is running, the conversation is in full flow and this time the meter is not running, this one is on me! Today, my minicab is taking you to Richmond.
A Little Bit of Background...
If you're as old as me, and without revealing my age or the year, you may remember when Richmond was part of Surrey. That's not the case now though, it's firmly part of London.
Classed as South West London, Richmond upon Thames - to give the borough its full name, is, you guessed it - right on the Thames. And what a stunning riverside location this borough has! Fun fact for you, it is actually the only borough in London which is on both sides of the river.
Now, this may just be because of my natural curiosity for places due to driving a minicab all-day long but I love to know about every corner of a destination. You may be reading this thinking that Richmond is just one town but that's not the case. Whilst it's named for the town, the borough actually compromises of the following locations:
Ham and Petersham
North Twickenham and East Whitton
Richmond and Richmond Hill
St Margarets and East Twickenham
Whitton and Heathfield
With the above in mind, some of my picks below may be spread across the borough - however, the great this is that
they are all accessible in a Parker Minicab!
Places to go, rain or shine!
Spreading across the Thames, Richmond is the perfect place to venture on a summer's day and soak up the sunshine. But, don't be fooled into thinking this is a place only for those sunny days, as being subject to the Great British weather, you would be waiting a while for such a day! No, Richmond upon Thames is a destination which I drive passengers to all year long and has something to do, whatever the weather!
One of my favourite things about the borough is the fact that pretty much half of it is parkland. It's a very green area of London, and it's a welcome place for a bit of change for Londoners used to seeing grey, urban landscapes - and also for showing tourists that London is not all an urban metropolis. This brings me onto my first pick of places to go:
One of the Royal Parks, Richmond Park is famous for its herds of deer and was created by Charles I in the 17th Century. It's a place that's steeped in history, filled with nature, has inspired many artists, and has been used as a filming location for several films and TV series.
The park is a national nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation and is included, at Grade I, on Historic England's Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.
It's a great place for a relaxing walk, cycle, horse ride, kickabout with your friends, a game of golf, or a spot of fishing.
Just a stone's throw from Central London, it's also a great destination for escaping the hustle and bustle of London life and getting in touch with Nature.
I said above about the herds of deer and these really are a defining feature of the place. The deer have played a major part in the park's history and it is their grazing with prevents tree seedlings from growing and keeps the grassland open.
There are 630 red and fallow deer and these have been allowed to roam freely since 1637. Richmond Park gives you a wonderful opportunity to see these deer in their natural habitat. You should remember though that they are wild animals, so this should be respected at all times!
The park advises visitors to keep at least 50 metres away from the deer and to be particularly cautious if you are visiting between September-October, as this is rutting season, and May-July, as this is the birthing season.
If you just read the above and thought, wait, what's rutting season? Then you're not asking a silly question. Rutting season is basically where the red stags and fallow bucks roar, bark and clash antlers to compete for females (fellas, don't try it - it doesn't impress women!). As you can imagine, this is a very tense time for the deer population - so be careful and don't get too close. For obvious reasons, the same goes for the birthing season.
As I also mentioned above, Richmond Park has also been an inspiration for many artists. It's been featured in paintings by Joan Carlile - who was one fo the first British female professional painters, Joseph Allen, William Frederick Witherington, John Martin, William Bennett, Henry Moore and Spencer Gore, to name just a few! Great if you love your art.
Whilst if you love your literature, Chapter 22 of George MacDonald's novel Rge Marquis of Loisse is entitled "Richmond Park", and the park also features in books by Georgette Heyer, Chris Cleave, Anthony Horowitz and Jacqueline Wilson.
If like me, you're a bit of a TV and film buff and love to get to a filming location of two - then Richmond Park has exactly that for you. It's been used in films including the Oscar-winning Anne of the Thousand Days, the BAFTA-winning Billy Elliott, Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of
Shadows and Disney's Into the Woods. Plus, it's been on Blue Peter (I never did get a badge!) and Springwatch, it's also the subject of nature documentary Richmond Park - National Nature Reserve, presented by the legend himself, Sir David Attenborough.
And if you're a music fan, a visit to Ian Dury's memorial bench on Poet's Corner in Pembroke Lodge Gardens, is a must! Inscribed with the title of one of his most famous songs - 'Reasons to Be Cheerful', it was donated to the park by his family in 2002 in memory of one of the places he often took his children.
Phew, after that long walk around Richmond Park, I imagine you’re hungry! Well if that’s the case, don’t worry as we are stopping for lunch. And it’s at one of my favourite spots…
Offering Syrian and Lebanese delicacies at a reasonable price, Sidra is fantastic for a spot of lunch. It has vegan and gluten-free options, so everyone is catered for.
I'm a vegetarian and I'm also greedy, so I usually go for a Mezza platter for 2. It includes a choice of 6 savoury pastries, 2 dips, vine leaves, aubergine salad and a green salad...don't get me wrong, I sometimes share it, just depends on how much of a sweat I've worked up at Richmond Park, or Bushy Park which is located just across the road.
Elsewhere on the menu, you can find plenty of halloumi, falafel, kibbeh, hummus and a range of different wraps. And if you've finished everything on your plate, their homemade cakes are great and change daily. To wash it all down, I love an ayrann...though, I appreciate it's saltiness is not to everyone's tastes. If you're looking for something sweeter, I recommend the Sidra lemonade.
Address: 5 Church Road, Teddington, TW11 8PF
Phone: 020 8977 2725
If you're looking for something a little more traditionally British to eat, then I say you can't beat The Crown. It's a superb place to go, especially on a Sunday, as their Sunday lunch is one of the best around.
It's not the cheapest but it's one of those places where you get what you pay for, and that's quality food! As I said above, I am veggie but if you're not there is a great selection of meats to choose from including West Country beef and English lamb.
Also on the menu, their bubble and squeak with poached eggs make for a great traditional British dish. Whilst if I'm after something a little lighter, I love their sautéed wild mushrooms, celeriac & sage, rocket & parmesan on sourdough toast.
Others I've dined with have raved about their 10oz - 21 day aged West Country rib-eye steak, with some home cut chips, slow-roasted tomatoes, onion rings and green peppercorn sauce.
As it's a pub, of course, they have a great selection of alcoholic drinks to offer. I'm mostly there is my minicab, so I don't often get to have a tipple but when I do, I take advantage of the many cask ales they have available. In addition to this, they have many beers, all kinds of cocktails and an extensive wine list.
As it's in Twickenham, it's in easy reach of the globally recognised Twickenham Stadium, which is next on my list!
Address: 174 Richmond Road, Twickenham, TW1 2NH
Phone: 020 8892 5896
The home of English Rugby, no visit to Richmond upon Thames would be complete without a visit to this fantastic stadium. Whether you are a rugby fan or not, it's great just to see the expressiveness of this 82,000 seater stadium.
If you are a rugby fan, then a visit inside the Cabbage Patch is a must...wait, I can hear you at the back - the Cabbage Patch? Yes, the Cabbage Patch is a nickname often given to the stadium, whilst others just call it Twickers. But you must be wondering why the Cabbage Patch? Well, it's as simple as this - way back in 1907, before the ground was purchased, it was a market garden and was used to grow cabbages!
Today, not only is it a venue for England's home games, but it is also used for the Premiership Rugby final, the Middlesex Sevens competition, the annual Army Navy match and The Varsity Match between Oxford and Cambridge universities.
Twickenham Stadium is also a concert venue and there have been performances from acts such as Rihanna, Iron Maiden, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Genesis, U2, Beyonce, The Rolling Stones, Eminem and Lady Gaga there.
If you can't make a match, a visit to the World Rugby Museum (located in the South Stand), where there are all kinds of rugby memorabilia including boots, balls, shirts and programmes, or a stadium tour, are both a great way of getting a rugby fix.
When people are looking for a taxi, chauffeur or minibus to get them to and from Twickenham Stadium, (including some of the teams!) they often call Parkers - we are only around the corner after all! Over the years, I must have collected hundreds of clients from the Stadium, and I can't remember even one that left disappointed!
Address: 200 Whitton Road, Twickenham, TW2 7BA
Phone: 020 3613 2008
Hampton Court Palace
If you’re looking for some regal history on your visit to London, Hampton Court Palace is the place to get it.
One of King Henry VIII's favourite residences, it was originally built in 1515 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. However, after a while, it was given back to Henry after the pair fell our because the Cardinal couldn't get Henry a divorce from Catherine of Aragon - his first wife, and we all know he had a few!
To cut a long story short, it was also a move which saw Henry take matters into his own hands by cutting ties with the Pope, appointing himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, getting excommunicated from the Catholic Church, and of course, getting his palace back.
It has also been a prison for Charles I, the place where William III fell from his horse and died from his injuries, and has been subjected to all kinds of extensions and renovations over the years.
Today, there's much less drama! It's still owned by the Crown but isn't a royal residence of the Queen. In fact, the last Monarch to live in the palace was King George II, and he died way back in 1760. It's fully open to the public and is a very popular tourist destination.
Its popularity in summer comes down to its most famous event - the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which is the largest flower show in the world. Held annually in early July, it's a multi-day event organised by the Royal Horticultural Society.
A must for anyone with green fingers, it's packed full of gardening inspiration with stunning floral displays, show gardens, floral marquees, plus talks and demonstrations.
Hampton Court Palace is also a popular venue for weddings, corporate Christmas parties, birthday celebrations and many other wonderful events. I have driven many brides, party goers and business professionals to attend Hampton Court when they are looking for something a little more special than a regular taxi.