TWENTY YEARS AGO, on a trip to Africa, we incidentally discovered the pleasures of London in the off season. In St. James's Park, the grass was fresh and green. It was warmer than Washington. There were few tourists. Almost everything was cheaper.

For the last 13 Januaries, we have stayed in the same complex of flats--most often it's Flat C, first floor, at P.C. Tustin's on York Street. It's handy to three tube stops--a 20-minute trip to Picadilly Circus, a six-block walk to Selfridges and the shops at Oxford Street. A stroll along the Grand Canal takes us to Maide Vale, a tony neighborhood with boutiques and restaurants. Our favorite shop is Finches' Ark, where every object-- earring, door knob, water pitcher--is an animal.

For us, the flat on York Street is more satisfying than any hotel. We love to cook, especially when we shop at the food stalls at nearby Selfridges and Marks & Spencer.

London always entices with new things and old treasures. But it is always a comfort, in the hubbub of this great city, to return for a few hours to the refuge of our very familiar flat.



P.C. Tustin, 94 York St., London, England W1H 1DP, 011-44-171- 723-9611,; British Tourist Authority, 1-800- 462-2748,