London For Londoners
While foreign tourists flock to the major attractions of the Tower and Buckingham Palace, those in the know realise that there are many, less well-documented attractions that give one a fantastic feel
Living away from the capital for the past five years has given me a wonderful perspective on what makes the city such a fantastic place to reside in and enjoy. While foreign tourists flock to the major attractions of the Tower and Buckingham Palace, those in the know realise that there are many, less well-documented attractions that give one a fantastic feel for the history and character of London.
It was a weekend a couple of months ago that I thought I would make one of my triumphant returns to the city, and when not catching up with old friends, I managed to visit a few of the more undiscovered parts of London.
So it was that walking north from Fleet Street, I arrived at 17 Gough Square, home to Dr Johnson's house. Dr Johnson, famed for his devotion to his dictionary, had a number of houses in London, but this was the most important, as it was close to his Fleet Street publisher and it was where the majority of the work on his tome was done. Indeed, the tranquillity of the Georgian square is quite at odds to the scene in the 18th century, when a huge number of writers would have swarmed the area, looking for bites from their publishers. Inside, the house has been returned to its original state and the musty atmosphere gave me quite a thirst, which was just as well, as a trip to the George pub on the south side of London Bridge was next on the holiday menu.
The pub was established in the 16th century along what is now Borough High Street and is one of the few remaining examples of a coaching inn in the capital. Built around a courtyard, with high balconies jutting out, the George is believed to have also been used as a venue for theatrical performances before the widespread use of theatres. Shakespeare almost certainly popped in on occasion and he would recognise today's version, despite it being completely rebuilt to the original template following a fire in 1676. Beautiful from the outside, the George is cosy inside as well and made for a lovely lunchtime treat.
The next day I thought I would take a look at some art not often seen by visitors on the major tourist trail. A trip to leafy Southwark Park found me at the Café Gallery. It is always home to an exhibition of some sort, mostly by artists from the local area and it is a fine place to find the latest in up and coming sculptors as well. Visitors are few yet the quality of the pieces is exquisite.
Of course, there are many ways to get some culture in London without competing with the crowds and as long as I am returning to the capital, I will endeavour to find out more of the city that I took for granted when living here for 20 years.