Travel to London
Soho’s first settlers were French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in the 17th century. These days, a concentration of gay-owned restaurants and bars has turned Old Compton Street into the heart of gay London.
PICCADILLY CIRCUS. In the glow of lurid neon signs, five of the West End’s major arteries merge and swirl round the Statue of Eros, dedicated to the Victorian philanthropist, Lord Shaftesbury. Eros originally pointed down Shaftesbury Ave. but recent restoration work has put his aim significantly off. (Tube: Piccadilly Circus.)
LEICESTER SQUARE. Amusements at this entertainment nexus range from London’s largest cinema to the Swiss Centre glockenspiel, whose atonal renditions of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata are enough to make even the tone-deaf weep. (Rings M-F noon, 6, 7, and 8pm; Sa-Su noon, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8pm.) Be true to your inner tourist by having your name engraved on a grain of rice and sitting for a caricature. (Tube: Leicester Sq. or Piccadilly Circus.)
CHINATOWN. The pedestrian, tourist-ridden Gerrard Street, with dragon gates and pagoda-capped phone booths, is the heart of London’s tiny slice of Canton, but gritty Lisle Street, one block to the south, has a more authentic feel. Chinatown is most exciting during the raucous Chinese New Year in February. (Between Leicester Sq. Shaftesbury Ave. and Charing Cross Rd.)