At Knightsbridge, I jump on the Piccadilly Line to head towards the center of London. Crowded into the carriages, it’s easy to see how the nickname of ‘The Tube” – derived from the round tunnels – has stuck.
I’m jammed against several strangers. Eye contact is avoided; heads are buried in newspapers and phones; earphones block out the world. The adverts are for online dating, travel insurance, temporary offices and investment brokers.
I hop off a few stops early at Leicester Square and walk towards Covent Garden. The ride between Leicester Square and Covent Garden is the busiest section on the Underground network but it’s actually quicker to walk as it’s also the shortest.
At the end of Cranbourn Street, a bronze bust of Agatha Christie pays tribute to The Mousetrap, London’s longest-running play. It has been in the West End continuously since 1952, and at St Martin’s Theatre since 1974. St Martin’s Lane is one of the six streets that meet here and I turn down towards the English National Opera.
The narrow pedestrianized alleys of Cecil Court and St Martin’s Court add to the atmosphere here, as does Freed of London, where West End dancers find their shoes. I dive down tiny Goodwins Court with its line of Georgian bay windows and emerge back into daylight to follow New Row towards Covent Garden Piazza. Here, a busker is trying valiantly to rustle up a crowd for his juggling act.
After enjoying the show, I walk up to the station, with its red tiling, cramped into a corner with Long Acre. A line of the black cabs that dominate the traffic in this area pause momentarily to deal with the crowd of tourists bumbling their way across the street.
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