LONDON - I began dipping into SAS Crew Guide's 2009 edition for travel tips as soon as I hit Barcelona, kept going in Lisbon and am now checking out their leads in London.
The 'back story' - as they say in Hollywood - is detailed in one of my Nov. 14 posts. Suffice it to say here that the Crew Guides are annual paperback books from Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and several fellow Star Alliance members on where to go and what to do in cities served by those airlines. Widely traveled airline crew members are the tipsters.
Just before I left Lisbon earlier this week, I found a good seafood restaurant in the central city, thanks to the 2009 guidebook. (The 2010 edition will be issued at the end of this month and is available online for 15 euros from www.sasguides.com). The restaurant in question is called Solar dos Presuntos, located on a narrow commercial street downtown, at 150 rua das Portas de Santo Antao. It occupies the ground floor of a tile-fronted, four-story building and is marked at the entrance by a fishtank with live lobsters for seafood lovers to inspect before ordering. The food is sumptuous, if a bit pricey for generally affordable Lisbon, with entrees generally a bit north of 20 euros (about $30 U.S.).
Here in London, I have been tucking the eminently portable book into a coat pocket, pulling it out to thumb through the pages. I know London pretty well, having made more than 30 visits, and it is my wife's hometown. I was pleased to see the wonderful travel book and map bookshop Stanford's (12-14 Long Acre, near Covent Garden) included, as well as a backpacker's favorite restaurant, the Stockpot. At the Stockpot outlet on Panton Street opposite the Comedy Theatre, I saw a three-curry dish on the menu for 4 pounds 50 pence (a bit over $7 U.S.) and a gammon steak with fried egg for 7 pounds (roughly $11 U.S.). I love London, but it is not cheap. The Stockpot, popular since the 1950s, is a no-frills choice, but it is good value for money. For inexpensive, good-tasting, healthful food, I have to say I prefer the many Pret a Manger outlets around town, but it was good to be reminded of the tried and true Stockpot.
The book also told me something I didn't know about a place I do know: Namely, that the good Waterstone's bookshop at 203-206 on Piccadilly has a toothsome cafe on its top 5th floor, with views down toward the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament. Indeed, it does, and thanks to the Crew Guide, I found out about it. As a bibliophile, I'll be back to the bookshop, and when I want a little nourishment for the body to match the nutrition for the mind that I'm getting from books, I'll have a bite at Waterstone's, too.