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Tales of a happy pinball

Tour by Twitter hits the ultimate jackpot

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IT'S 7:30 on a spring evening and I'm devouring the most decadent dessert I have ever fallen on my dish for: Scandinavian iced berries scandalously coated with hot white chocolate sauce.

In the corner of J. Sheekey -- an intimate, oak-panelled oasis in Covent Garden that's part of the same family as celebrity hangouts, The Ivy and Le Caprice -- a couple is laughing at my shameless spoon scraping; even the patient server is beaming.

It's like they all know that my week of being a human pinball -- happily ricocheting from one place in the capital to another, all according to the whim of Londoners on Twitter -- has just klieg-lit the ultimate jackpot.

This time the pin on my iPhone map had guided me down -- not past -- the narrow lane of St. Martin's Court, sandwiched between the hive of Leicester Square Tube station and the Garrick Theatre (today boasting burlesque show, Hurly-burly), and straight to the discreet bar and restaurant with a top-hatted doorman.

It seems that even when you're a regular visitor (indeed, I am a London transplant), it's hard to keep up with a city that changes at whiplash speed. Which is why tuning in your digital antennae to what Londoners think you must do/ see/feel/taste in the capital right now is as effortless as, well, 140 characters.

It's how I find myself virtually licking said plate of Sheekey's signature (but previously unknown to me) dessert one moment and, the next, sipping a much-praised chili martini (a potent mix of vanilla vodka, passion fruit and chili, of course) at the supersocial whirl of Sophie's Steak house on the chic "Chelsea Beach" strip near the King's Road -- all thanks to a perfect stranger (@RiaMusicManager).

Starting with simple, generic tweets ("What should I do in London?"), I target Twitter friends and a few obvious London sites I wouldn't bother any stars that you follow for help: Remember, tweeting your heroes can be just as disappointing as meeting them.)

Suggestions to visit the Tate Modern are almost on repeat tweet -- after all, everyone is all a-Twitter about the free-to-enter art gallery's unveiling of the new Pablo Picasso $103-million painting, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust -- that had not been seen in public for some 50 years.

Then I ride around two parks I never knew existed (spying a delicate statue of the young Victoria in sweet Victoria Gardens and the giant Lioness and Lesser Kudu sculpture by Jonathan Kenworthy at Upper Grosvenor Gardens).

With Waity Katie and Prince William headlines no longer dominating before their late April wedding and Union Jack bunting out in force throughout the city, am I interested in royal souvenirs? If so, for traditional, think Emma Bridgewater -- one of the country's leading ceramicists.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE:

Air Canada (aircanada.com), British Airways (ba.com) and Air Transat (airtransat.ca) all fly direct to London.

PLACES TO STAY:

-- Londoner's homes via One Fine Stay, London (onefinestay.com)

-- The newly refurbished Four Seasons London at Park Lane hotel near Hyde Park. (fourseasons.com/london)

HOT TWITTER TIPS:

-- The London Eye: londoneye. com

-- London cycle hire stations: web. barclayscyclehire.tfl.gov.uk/ maps

LIST OF PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK ON THE SOUTH BANK:

-- southbanklondon.com/index. php? pid4&full&foodDrinkcat egoryid1

-- Rose Prince's Pocket Bakery, 177 Battersea Bridge Road (Saturdays only, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; 011 44-207 223 9709)

-- Fryer's Delight, 19 Theobald's Road (011 44-871 971 6775)

-- J Sheekey, 28-32 St. Martin's Court (011 44-20 7240 2565; j-sheekey. co.uk)

-- Tate Gallery, Bankside (011 44-20 7887 8888; tate.org.uk/ modern

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 28, 2011 D4

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