Window shop in Harrods
Before you enter this London shopping icon then you should first take a stroll around the outside of the building and appreciate the carefully decorated windows. They are especially inventive during the run up to Christmas. Inside you can continue with the window shopping by wandering through the fine jewellery department, where Bvlgari and Faberge top the list, and the designer clothes departments where you may just find that little black Gucci dress in the sales.
Feeling peckish? Well don’t head to the 4th floor Georgian Restaurant where a classical pianist serenades diners as they indulge in afternoon tea. Instead hit the ground floor food hall which is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Cheese and chocolates are on offer and if you show an interest in a particular product then you may be offered a free taster.
Finally, spend a few minutes watching posh people’s pooches being pampered in the pet department on the 4th Floor.
Remember Heroes in Postman’s Park
Deep in the City of London, not far from St Paul’s Cathedral is a quiet park where ordinary people are remembered for their extraordinary acts. The Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, a wall of over 50 plaques, can be found under a canopy in one corner of the park. Royal Doulton tiles, hand painted with beautiful script, tell the stories of heroic souls who lost their lives while trying to save others.
It was created by George Frederic Watts, who had the idea to commemorate “heroic men and women” for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year. The stories told by these plaques are heartbreaking, but sometimes a little bit amusing. For example, Sarah Smith, pantomime artiste who “died of terrible injuries received when attempting in her inflammable dress to extinguish the flames which had enveloped her companion”.
Alice Ayres provides a pseudonym for Natalie Portman’s character in the film “Closer” and the park features as a location in the film.
A more recent addition is Leigh Pitt, a print technician from Surrey, had died on 7 June 2007 rescuing nine-year-old Harley Bagnall-Taylor who was drowning in a canal in Thamesmead.
Incidentally, the park’s unique name stems from the regular stream of postmen who used to visit the green space while on breaks from the nearby General Post Office.
Search for Blue Plaques
For the past 140 years, the Blue Plaque scheme has made it possible for tourists and locals to pinpoint where their favourite actor, singer, inventor or author lived. There are more than 850 plaques across London commemorating famous people who have been dead for at least 20 years, resided in London for a significant amount of time, and are famous enough to deserve national or international recognition. Blue plaques not only commemorate people though. Some commemorate historical events (such as the founding of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) and sites (such as Alexandra Palace).
Some Plaques to look out for:
- Sir Winston Churchill lived and died at 28 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington Gore, Kensington and Chelsea, SW7.
- Isaac Newton, the English scientist who set the laws of physics, has a plaque where he lived at 87 Jermyn Street, SW1, Westminster. He is buried not far away in Westminster Abbey.
- Charlie Chaplin, that silent screen icon, grew up in 287 Kennington Road, London, SE 11
- Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped, has a plaque at Mount Vernon, corner of Holly Place, Hampstead, London NW3
- Anna and Sigmund Freud have a plaque on the Freud Museum, 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead, NW3.
- Sherlock Holmes may be a fictional character but he has a blue plaque on the site of 221B Baker Street, London, W1, where a Sherlock Holmes Museum now occupies the site.
- John Logie Baird has a plaque at 22 Frith Street, Westminster, W1D 4RP where he gave the first public demonstration of television.
- Enid Blyton, best known for her Famous Five and Secret Seven books, lived at 207 Hook Road, Chessington, Kingston upon Thames from 1920 to 1924.
- Jimi Hendrix and George Frederick Handel might be rather unlikely neighbours, but both lived on Brook Street, Mayfair, W1 – Hendrix at number 23 and Handel at 25 (which is now fully restored and home to the Handel House Museum). Sadly, two centuries kept the two musicians from ever meeting.
Mooch around the Markets
Looking for a vintage designer dress or a rare Beatles LP, then look no further than Camden Market. The largest street market in the UK, it is actually five separate markets -
Camden Lock Market, Camden Stables Market, Camden Canal Market, Inverness Street Market, and Camden (Buck Street) Market. Designer & vintage fashion, arts & crafts, antiques, jewellery, music and international food are all on offer.
Camden itself was established at the end of the 18th century when the Earl of Camden began to develop the land around what is now Camden High Street. Regent’s Canal, a central feature of the Lock Market was opened in 1820, bringing commerce to Camden. With main trade routes open, warehouse and production lines were established in the area and their products were then transported up the river. It was not long though before shipping became too expensive as other means of transport became available. Before becoming the expensive apartments that they are today, many of the industrial buildings closed down and were left in a state of decay.
Luckily for Camden, in 1970 three men decided to transform the area around Camden Lock into an arts and crafts market. The area became more popular and grew as word of mouth made the markets popular.
If you prefer to stay in the City of London then Leadenhall Market may offer a better shopping experience. You may recognise it as part of the 2012 Olympic marathon course, or from the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
It all began in 1411 when Richard ‘Dick’ Whittington, gifted Leadenhall to the City. The market established there initially sold grain, poultry and dairy products but 200 years on it had become a centre of commerce with additional markets for wool, leather and cutlery.
In 1881 the original stone building was demolished and the city’s architect, Sir Horace Jones, introduced the cobbled floor and wrought iron and glass features which are present today in the Grade II listed building.
Finally, we should mention Old Tom. Back in the 18th Century, Tom was one of 34,000 geese to be slaughtered over 2 days at Leadenhall Market. Amazingly Old Tom managed to escape execution and he soon became a favourite among the traders, being fed by the inns. Old Tom lived happily in the market for many years but eventually died in 1835 and had the honour of being laid in state and buried at the market. You can have a drink to Old Tom in a bar of the same name or you could take a short walk down the street to the old Midland Bank building where you can see two identical representations of Old Tom sitting high on the roof. The road upon which this building stands is amazingly called Poultry!
Hold Court in The Old Bailey
Ever wanted to be a lawyer? Maybe not but perhaps you’ve always wondered what it would be like to see a live trial. Well you can watch one from the public gallery of the Old Bailey and it won’t cost a thing.
First you need to find the entrance. Walk past the famous arches of the Old Bailey with them on your left. There’s an alleyway called Warwick Passageway and it’s here where you’ll find the entrance doors. The public galleries are open from 10am-1pm and 2-5pm and visitors must be 14 years or older.
As you might imagine, security is tight, so cameras, phones, food or water are strictly prohibited. Luckily there are plenty of enterprising shopkeepers who will look after your possessions for a small fee.
The Court Clerks can give you information about the trials and you can decide which courtroom to visit. You may end up seeing a murder trial, which is a sobering reminder that this is not really a tourist attraction. Make sure you abided by the rules and you will have an interesting, if unconventional, experience on London.