Montreal is a great city — best city in Canada, maybe even the world. However, when the fun stops and things quiet down, it’s always nice to get out of town and head for the hills.
When the temperature starts to drop in October, it’s not a bad idea to hop on a plane and check out some different cultures. According to the stats, millions of Canadians do just that every year. So where does everyone go when they leave Canada? Europe or, more specifically, the U.K.
In 2015, 1.192 million Canadians visited the U.K. and spent more than $1.5-million. Now, if you want to make a break for it just as the cold weather is getting a grip on Montreal, October is a great time to visit the U.K. It’s not exactly the Bahamas in terms of sunshine, but there’s plenty to do in the land of tea and the Queen (most of it involving neither tea nor the reigning monarch). However, just as we’re interested in the best of local culture in Montreal, we want you to see the best local talent in the British capital, London.
See London’s poker face
Naturally, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London are obvious destinations. What if you’re up for something a bit different? Well, if you’ve ever fancied emulating Canadian poker pro Daniel Negreanu, then London is a great place to do it. In fact, you don’t even have to be a high roller to enjoy the action as you can see from the 888Live festival that took place back in 2016.
Hosted by Canadian Kara Scott, this event was aimed squarely at “recreational” players thanks to buy-ins of just £220 (C$367). Beyond 888Live at Aspers Casino, London’s Leicester Square is home to three casinos, including the Empire, all of which host afternoon tournaments and low stakes cash games.
Raise a toast
Why would I want to play poker on a trip to London? Well, aside from clever banter at the table, it’s a great way to test your mental acuity. If nothing else, it’s a chance to beat the English on their home turf. Once you’ve got a true taste of London life at the poker table, a taste of something with a bit more of a kick will be in the cards. From Leicester Square, you can make the short walk to Covent Garden, where you’ll find the Craft Beer Co.
Home to 45 different beers and ciders, this drinking hole actually has the largest tap selection of craft beverages in the U.K. Although Craft Beer Co. doesn’t have an onsite microbrewery like Montreal’s Brutopia, it does feature some of the finest creations from around the U.K. For something a little sweet, you could try the Terri’s Choc Orange from Mondo at 5.1 per cent abv. For something a little more powerful, Firestone Walker’s latest creation, Luponic Distortion 005 comes in at 5.9 per cent abv, although you might have to brace yourself for the price as much as the taste as it will set you back £7.50 (C$12.50) a pint!
Take it to the Banksy
The final leg of your trip to some of London’s more niche attractions is a tour of the city’s street art. Organized by Alternative London, the walking tour will take you to some of the city’s most colourful and creative hotspots. Naturally, in a country where a mystery man put 21st century street art on the map (i.e. Banksy), it’s little wonder that you’ll see some pieces that wouldn’t look out of place in the National Gallery.
As well as giving you an insight into the pieces you’ll see, each tour guide will regale you with stories from the local area and give you real insight into the culture of London away from the tourist traps. If you really want to get to know a city, it pays to take an alternative route, and that’s what we’ve tried to do in this guide. Taking an opportunity to try something new like poker and drinking in the local culture (quite literally) will help you appreciate the city for what it really is.
You might not want to swap it for Montreal, but there’s a chance you’ll want to visit again the next time our fair city goes into its shell for the winter months. ■