Saturday, August 25, 2018

Secret London - An Unusual Guide Paperback – February 15, 2017 by Rachel Howard (Jonglez Publishing)

"It's a serene, unpretentious little place with a real sense of community - a perfect spot to settle in with the Sunday papers while your kids make a beeline for the poisonous plants." - from SECRET LONDON, regarding Chumleigh Gardens

London is my favorite city of all those in the world I've visited. SECRET LONDON by Rachel Howard and Bill Nash (with photos by Stephanie Rivoal and Jorge Monedero) is for travelers like me who've been there more times than I can count and might foolishly wonder what there's left to see.

This "unusual guide," which can fit in a backpack, is divided into the city's geographic areas. They are, with the number of described points-of-interest in parenthesis: Westminster to Camden (35), Temple to Angel (38), Tower Bridge to Shoreditch (26), Marylebone to Shepherd's Bush (14), Westminster to Hammersmith (10), South Bank to Brixton (15), Whitechapel to Woolwich (19), Greater London - North (20), and Greater London - South (14). There's also a bonus section listing thirty-five Unusual Bars, Cafes, and Restaurants around town.

Each area is prefaced both with a color map showing major streets and a numerical listing of the points-of-interest for that area; the numbers are positioned on the map.

The majority of the points-of-interest are described by a single color photo and a half-page to a full page of text that includes address, website, phone number, hours, admission fee (if any), and nearest Tube station. On each page there may also be noted "Sights Nearby," which may or may not be included in the numbering scheme.

Of the 191 numbered listings, I'm ashamed to admit that I've seen only two: John Snow's Cholera Pump and the Thames Flood Barrier. Having admitted my disgrace, however, I must point out that most, if not all, would appeal to those whose interests are rather esoteric, and I likely wouldn't visit many of them anyway. The City of London Bowling Club? The Cherry Tree at the Mitre Tavern? The Fan Museum? The Handlebar (moustache) Club? The Twinings Tea Museum? The London Buddhist Centre? The Fetter Lane Moravian Burial Ground? The Bread Basket Boy? The West Reservoir? The Marylebone Cricket Club Museum? The Magpie Alley Crypt? The Brixton Windmill? The Traffic Light Tree? The Giant Scribble? Um, no to all and many more, I'm afraid.

But, I would attend to such as: the Westminster Abbey Undercroft, the Hyde Park Pet Cemetery, the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, the Materials Library, Nunhead Cemetery, Relics of the Elephant Man, the BFI Mediatheque, the Old Operating Theatre, and a few more. Perhaps even Chumleigh Gardens to watch the unsupervised kids make a beeline for the poisonous plants.

I'm awarding five stars to SECRET LONDON because it does beautifully what it was intended to do, i.e. provide guidance to London's unusual and alternative attractions. My only complaint is that the authors' dry humor is displayed only rarely.

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