London is one of my favorite cities to visit in the world, so I was intrigued to receive an invitation to attend The Big British Invite, a collaboration between VisitBritain and British Airways to showcase some of the highlights of British culture that tourists might want to explore. The Olympics last year as well as the Royal Wedding and anticipated arrival of the Royal Baby, have made the United Kingdom a very popular destination, with 3,000 people a day traveling between New York and London. The city and the tri-state area generate the largest group of visitors. This sold out pop-up last weekend in Soho was to display “a glimpse of what is new and now in Britain,” according to the organizers.
For the press preview, we were able to interact with two of the UK’s current cultural exports: Grammy award winner Estelle and Dan Stevens, who appeared on Broadway after having left Downton Abbey. With them walking alongside of us through the different displays of British food, fashion, and culture, this was a bit like sharing an afternoon discovering the delights of a city with your friend, The Insider.
We were treated to a scarf-tying demo by the folks of Liberty of London, sampled treats from local gastropub Highlands NYC, nibbled on teatime fare from Sanderson Hotel‘s “Mad Hatter ‘s Afternoon Tea,” had a seat in a “London cab,” checked out the latest in punk fashions, and took in a few drinks at a pub, among other activities. It was a terrific chance to dip into a bit of Britain while not having to pack a suitcase or to deal with Customs, but it did make me realize that I’m long overdue for a real trip to London to soak up some of the wonderful things going on over there.