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London Calling

(AP Photo/Jacqueline Arzt)
The best cup of tea that I've ever had was in London. It came not at a big, fancy tea service at a posh hotel, but in the basement Crypt Café of the St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square. The dark, cavernous room has stone arches that suggest that it had been there long before Manhattan island was sold to the Dutch, and it is the atmosphere that makes me go back for more tea every time I'm in London. Outside, the pigeons flying around the Admiral Lord Nelson sculpture add even more atmosphere.

The worst dessert that I've ever had was also in London. I was staying at a fancy hotel in Kensington, and the manager gushed over something called "the Queen's pudding" that he said I had to try. It was a dry, brown, lumpish thing the consistency of a bran muffin, and even dousing it with buckets of cream didn't make it palatable.

The best serendipitous theater find also came in London when I stayed at the Savoy Hotel, the great palace dedicated to the works of Gilbert & Sullivan, with their old programs and mementoes on the walls. The attached Savoy Theatre had just opened a new production of Gilbert & Sullivan's Iolanthe, and on the spur of the moment I bought a ticket and enjoyed a superb matinee that seemed to reach back through the years to the days when the great light-opera duo was cranking out new works.

Best place to eat breakfast and wander around admiring exquisite foodstuffs: The Harrad's food court in the basement.

Best place to pretend you're Henry the VIII and threaten your spouse with a beheading: Hampton Court palace, where he used to live.

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I've got to get back to London soon to search for more bests.

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