Seeking out the unusual in London

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TRISH TAKES FIVE: By blogger Trish Burgess

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’. Samuel Johnson uttered these words in 1777 and I’ve come to realise that he is probably right.

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I lived in London for three years in the 1980s but all I seemed to do was work and commute: I very rarely took time to explore all that London had to offer.

Since moving to Lincolnshire, however, I have made the most of my trips to the capital over the last 25 years.

When Rory was little we visited many of the traditional attractions but more recently we have discovered more obscure and unusual places, often just taking a detour off the main streets to see what we might come across.

Tired of schlepping up and down Oxford Street? Walk down Duke Street, opposite Selfridges, and hunt out Brown Hart Gardens, a beautiful public space situated, rather bizarrely, on top of an electricity sub-station. It was closed by the Electricity Board in the 1980s but has recently been renovated and includes a small cafe.

Are you a fan of Sherlock Holmes? If you watched the recent series, with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Holmes, you may remember the episode which included the fake houses of Leinster Gardens.

The terraced houses might appear the same but if you look closer you will see that numbers 23 and 24 have fake facades, created when an extension to the Metropolitan Line cut through the street in 1868. If you walk round to Porchester Terrace you can see the rear of the properties: the plain brick wall exposes the trick.

There are many fabulous museums in London which will keep you occupied for hours, but if you fancy something different, head to the area north of St Paul’s and explore the Museum of London.

As well as being a superb place to see how the city has developed over the centuries, it is also home to the cauldron, designed by 
Thomas Heatherwick to hold the flame for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Some 8.5 metres high, comprising of large copper petals on stainless steel rods, it is one of three cauldrons constructed for the Games: the petals from the other two were given to representatives of each country competing in both Games.

Coffee shops are plentiful but if you would rather eschew the usual chains, you can eat and drink in style elsewhere in London.

The Keeper’s House in The Royal Academy of Arts, just off Piccadilly, serves light lunches and gorgeous cakes for Friends of the Royal Academy in the Sir Hugh Casson Room but, after 4pm, the general public can sneak in for a rather classy cuppa.

Likewise, Somerset House, on the Strand, famous for its summer fountains and winter ice rink, has a selection of eateries including Tom’s Deli, serving reasonably priced freshly-baked cakes and pastries.

I’ve shared a a few of my chosen haunts here but if you would like to share your own London favourties, let me know on Twitter @mumsgoneto