WEEKEND: TRAVEL: Getting to the Art of London; CULTURE VULTURES CAN CRAM A FEAST OF THEATRE, MUSEUMS AND NIGHTLIFE INTO A SHORT BREAK
Byline: Ben Griffin
THE critic Samuel Johnson maintained that if you are tired of London, you are tired of life.
The lexicographer was talking about the 18th century but the capital is even more exciting and diverse today, with its mix of art galleries, museums, sights, theatres, restaurants and nightlife.
Being little more than 100 miles away, it makes the ideal short break.
French chain Mercure has stretched across the Channel and opened some excellently located hotels all around London, with weekend prices starting at pounds 99 per room, including and breakfast.
We stayed at the plush Mercure London City Bankside, in Southwark Street, directly behind Tate Modern and near some of the best galleries, theatres and tourist attractions in the world.
In London, this is about as central as it gets and it means you won't have to brave the Tube after a hard day's sightseeing.
If art's your bag, there's Tate Britain and Tate Modern, the newly-opened Saatchi Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum.
Culture vultures will never be bored in London.
Theatre buffs can visit the re-built Shakespeare Globe theatre on the South Bank, which the Bard himself would easily recognise. Just up river is the National Theatre and then, of course, there is the West End.
Besides the familiar attractions of the Millennium Eye and the Tower of London, the city now has one of the more peculiar sights in its history, as illusionist David Blaine dangles in a perspex box over the south bank of the Thames.
The tourist trail is seemingly endless - Buckingham Palace, St Paul's Cathedral, the Imperial War Museum, with its chunk of Berlin Wall outside, and the British Museum with its Egyptian mummies,
After a hard day's sightseeing, where do you relax? We decided to head north and took the Tube at London Bridge - five minutes from the hotel - for a couple of stops, emerging at Islington, one of the most popular and vibrant high streets in London.
Packed with pubs, bars and restaurants, it is a great place for the London novice - not as grand as the West End, but with a great atmosphere.
We found a bustling Italian restaurant called la Porchetta on Upper Street in Islington, where a three-course meal for two, with wine, costs about pounds 35.
All in all, you can have a weekend exploring one of the great cities of the world at a reasonable cost and with little effort as trains (should! …