When you visit a world-class, well-known city like London, it's easy to fall victim to a case of the jaded been-there-done-thats.
The cure? Take an insider tour. Yes, yes, I know, nothing screams tourist more than being part of a tour. We've all seen the throngs of sweaty pink rubes wearing matching tour-issued baseball hats, following a leader with a flag. But London offers several ways to tour that allow you to skip the tacky company and gain a fresh perspective on the city.
London is chock-a-block with international brands, but who travels to buy what they can find at home? Try a shopping tour led by Clare Dowdy, a design journalist and the author of "One Off", a book about independent retail shops worldwide. London is her home turf, though, and she knows it well. For instance, she may bring you to the Lamb's Conduit Street neighborhood, home to a cluster of boutiques ranging from an independent book publisher and binder called Persephone, to a brand new tiny home-design shop opened by architect Ben Pentreath.The tour is exclusively arranged through the Intercontinental Park Lane, and here's a bonus: since you book through the concierge, you can either go on your own, or with the people you're traveling with, no stranger interaction required.
The Intercontinental also arranges a food tour hosted by Sudi Pigott, author of "How to Be a Better Foodie." Pigott is one of those ridiculously well-connected people who prearranges behind-the-scenes access, tastes and nibbles (she even comes prepared with her own plastic cutlery).