by Fiona Brown
When Samuel Johnson said ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford’ he was certainly right. With every square mile full to bursting with museums, bars, restaurants and attractions, any trip to London provides a dilemma of deciding where to go and what to see. There are the traditional favourites: The British Museum, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, but sometimes heading a little off the beaten track can reap its rewards too. Away from the usual tourist haunts the real heart of London life can be discovered. Here are just a few interesting ideas of places that are just that little bit different:
Eating and Drinking
Shhhhh… don’t tell anyone. In the past year there has been a huge rise in ‘secret’ bars in London. Often tucked away behind non-descript doors, or through what looks like an old office block, you have to be in the know to find these places as you definitely wouldn’t stumble across them. Take the Evans and Peel Detective Agency as an example. The website is deliciously ambiguous, comprising just one page with an email address to arrange your ‘appointment’ (make a booking). Located in the Earls Court area of London (accessible by tube), the entrance is nothing but a glass door with a name on, and once you are through this you find yourself in a detectives office with a man behind the desk. Once you have decided whether to go to your desk (dinner table) or the holding cell (the bar), you are led inside through a secret bookshelf. It sounds a bit daunting, but in reality it is a fun alternative to a traditional bar, and the secrecy makes it feel all the more exclusive.
If you are looking for a trip with a difference then have a look at what vacation rentals company onefinestay are offering. They call themselves the ‘unhotel’ and allow travellers to stay in unique homes while the owners are out of town. Guests are given an iPhone for their stay loaded with gems of local information collected from the home owner with tips on the best places to go in town. With over 600 homes in London you could choose to stay in an apartment in the clock tower at St Pancras station, a converted vicarage or even a home that was once a Violin Factory. It is a really interesting alternative to the traditional hotel and in many cases works out cheaper on a room-for-room basis, and definitely more exciting.
It’s no secret that the British weather is unreliable at best, but there is a new free exhibition at the Barbican Curve Gallery which allows you to control the rain through an experimental artwork. The installation is an area of falling water 100m square through which visitors walk – except they don’t get wet. The technology is extremely clever: 3d cameras map out the location of the body and movement triggers certain water jets to pause keeping the person totally dry. The cameras are hidden away though, so the experience of walking though thousands of droplets of water but staying dry is a very surreal one, but definitely one worth trying. The exhibition is on until March 2013.
Photo Credit: rain room by Dominic Lipinsky/PA Wire