My globetrotting career began one wet Monday morning in 1985 when I went to London's Liverpool Street station and caught a train to Hong Kong. Since then I've travelled all over the world on assignments for numerous publications, in particular the Daily Telegraph newspaper and British Marie Claire.
Where I always grab a coffee: At home, which is close to the Angel Underground station in Islington, north London, where there are so many travel writers living I used to hold a regular party every year - but of course, many of them were away... My other favourite coffee haunt is Bar Italia in Soho (22 Frith St), usually at about 3am when it's packed with lots of entertaining people who don't want their wild night to stop - myself included.
My favourite stroll: A walk across any London bridge is always rewarding and rich with historic associations. Head to Westminster Bridge and it's hard not to think of the poet Wordsworth celebrating its uplifting city views in his sonnet 'Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802', while London Bridge often brings to mind TS Eliot pondering its rush hour commuters in 'The Waste Land' (1922).
Fiction for inspiration: Salaam Brick Lane: A Year in the New East End, by Tarquin Hall, is an enjoyable and spirited introduction to the great jumble of human stories that is modern life in London. For more books about the capital, make a beeline for the Edwardian calm of Daunt Books in Marylebone High St (www.dauntbooks.co.uk) where you can happily browse for hours.
Where to be seen: Drinking vintage Louis Roederer Champagne at the opulently gilded Beaufort Bar in the new-look Savoy Hotel (www.the-savoy.com).
The most breathtaking view: Climb up to the Golden Gallery of St Paul's Cathedral.
The best spot for some peace and quiet: Green Park (www.royalparks.gov.uk) gets a lot of use but somehow there is always a bench or patch of grass where you can grab a breather.
Shopaholics beware: For a spot of window-shopping, I always enjoy a bowl along Jermyn Street, just off Piccadilly, which is lined with venerable gentlemen's outfitters and specialist shops devoted to cigars, cheese and leather goods. If I need to buy a present, Heal's (www.heals.co.uk) in Tottenham Court Road will always have something, or pop into the equally appealing Habitat next door.
City soundtrack: 'Up the Junction' by Squeeze is so very London... You should also load up 'Waterloo Sunset' by The Kinks, 'Itchycoo Park (The Small Faces), 'God Save The Queen' (Sex Pistols) and 'London's Calling' (The Clash).
Don’t leave without... drinking a proper pint of ale in an unreconstructed pub. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet St is satisfactorily ancient, while the Princess Louise in High Holborn is a magnificent piece of Victoriana. My local is the tiny Charles Lamb in Elia St, N1 (www.thecharleslambpub.com) - see you there...
My expert information
Beefeaters, red buses and Buckingham Palace. Tate Modern, the Eye, the Gherkin. You’ve seen London in a million films and know all about it from the style mags, so is there anything left to explore?
The answer’s yes, even for me, and I’ve spent a decade writing about this city. The only problem for first-time visitors, return visitors, even people who are here so often they’re almost residents themselves, is that there’s just too much to do.Read more...