Many people around the world are fascinated and delighted by Americana – and for good reason, the different ingredients that make up US culture aren’t just near instantly recognisable to so many of us but critical components we take for granted (and greatly enjoy) in our everyday lives. To that end then, being the globally open, highly cosmopolitan metropolis it is; London offers visitors an array of different American attractions to throw themselves into. And that stands for whether they’re a citizen from the States – and fancy being reminded of home – or from absolutely anywhere else. Here are some examples…
Send a postcard home – with an American stamp
(117 Rotherhithe Street SE16 4NF)
Bermondsey’s not exactly the centre of town, but if you’ve any sort of connection to the United States it might be said to be something of a must-travel-to part of London. Why so? Because the area’s Mayflower Inn isn’t just a fine old, tourist-friendly city pub, it’s also somewhere – rather wonderfully – where you can buy a postcard that features a genuine US stamp. Just imagine how your relatives back in the States (should you have any) will react when they receive that through the mail! So why does this place go to the bother of selling such a thing? Well, it was from very near here that the famed Mayflower ship set sail for the ‘new world’, with the Pilgrim Fathers aboard. Plus, it’s said that the ship’s captain regularly frequented this age-old inn for a tipple. So, to say you’ve been inside the venue itself – another boast for the folks back home!
Shop ’til you drop at the American Food Store
(2 Ladbroke Grove W11 3BG)
Everything from Hershey chocolate bars to Lucky Charms cereals and pancake and waffle mixes to irresistible New York-style bagels… you’ll find them all at this West London haven of foodstuffs that combine to make up the US cuisine. Indeed, like with everything else on this list, whether you’re American or not, this is one venue that’s bound to warm the cockles of your heart following a visit – and, of course, weigh you down with all the bags of treats you’ll have inevitably bought! Moreover, if you’ve made your place of stay somewhere near the West End (like, for instance, the Park Grand London Paddington hotel), its Notting Hill location’s very easy to reach – merely a quick hop on the Tube away. Perfect.
Be beguiled by Benjamin Franklin House
(36 Craven Street WC2N 5NF)
A Grade I-listed building, this elegant terraced house was, back in the 18th Century (specifically between 1757 and 1775), home of legendary US founding father Benjamin Franklin. Why was he so legendary in addition to being a founding father (which would make him pretty legendary in the first place)? Because Franklin wasn’t just a political giant; being something of the polymath, he indulged in both diplomacy and the then burgeoning field of science. Indeed, this house then is split into three separate sections, each of which is dedicated to one of his interests. Open to the public, it holds tours every day (except for Tuesdays).
(Marylebone Road NW1/ Englefield Green, Egham, Surrey TW20 0NP)
Let’s be honest, the leaders of many nations (even those as important as the US) step up to the plate, have their time in the sun and then, once they’ve stepped down, see the collective memory of them fade. They tend to rather merge into one another. That’s not true for all of them, though, especially the American President that was John F Kennedy. Although he only held the reins of power for little more than two-and-half years in the early 1960s, his attempts to tackle injustice, playing a critical role in the Cold War and, of course, the tragic assassination that cut short both his time in office and life made him an icon for all-time; not just for his fellow country(wo)men but people throughout the world.
If you are a US citizen then (or should you have a specific interest in JFK), the two moving memorials to one of the 20th Century’s most legendary leaders in London may well appeal to you. The first is in the form of a bust in Marylebone, unveiled by brother Robert F Kennedy in 1965; the second a tranquil, beautiful if small garden located in the Thames-side village of Runnymede just outside the city limits – it was officially opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II and Jackie Kennedy, also in 1965.