Fiction set in USA and EUROPE: the life of Maria Callas
Out and about in London with “Secret London” (Jonglez)
26th January 2017
Secret London. An Unusual Guide (Jonglez Guides) Rachel Howard and Bill Nash – out and about in London.
Once you feel familiar with a given city, how do you start to delve into the place at a deeper level? On a recent visit to London we took Secret London “An Unusual Guide” (Jonglez) and it was a delightful way of finding some new and unusual things to see.
We were based in Fitzrovia/Bloomsbury and so focused on some of the suggestions for that area. An interesting excursion to The Hardy Tree, in Old St Pancras Churchyard (just 5 minutes’ walk from at the back of St Pancras) was a bit of a revelation. How often had I passed by that graveyard without realizing the gems within?
Author Thomas Hardy originally apparently trained as an architect and was involved in clearing graves to make way for the extension of the Midland Railway. Dealings with the dead informed his writing in later years. Today, those stacked up gravestones have been swallowed by the trunk of a tree over the last century and a half, and makes for a real blend of man-made and natural elements. The same graveyard offers up the tomb for John Soane (architect of Dulwich Picture Gallery, also mentioned in the book). This itself provided inspiration for the iconic red telephone boxes that dotted the city until very recently. Who knew?
Have you noticed the caryatids at St Pancras Church, modeled on the Erechtheum of the Acropolis? Now rather blackened because of the location on Euston Road. Sculptor Charles Rossi constructed them off site and when they were transported from his studio to the church, he discovered they were too tall. He thus cut out their midriffs to make them fit. Creative!
And at SOAS, The School of African and Oriental Studies in the heart of London, there is a wonderful Japanese Garden in the Brunei Gallery. However on the day I tried to visit, it was undergoing a refurbishment, so that is something for next time.
Time for lunch? We had to rely on word of mouth, as Secret London is purely about things to see (although Jonglez do offer restaurant and hotel guides for some cities). But we made it to The Wild Food Café, 14 Neil’s Yard, Covent Garden for some amazingly healthy food. As they say: Our food roots are colourful, global and eclectic with a gourmet, playful edge. We get inspired by flavours and ingredients from all four corners of the world and put our signature ‘wild’ twist to them.
And the gems in Secret London just kept rolling in. A lovely guidebook to take you away from the big tourist attractions…. Pick up a Jonglez Guide “Local Guides by Local People” when you are next looking for something a little different.
The novels to read in Fitzrovia, London?
Well, of course a couple of novels set in Fitzrovia, as that is where we were staying. Fitzrovia in London is a small area, with quiet streets, jaunty pubs, innovative eateries, ad agencies (Saatchi & Saatchi, not to mention PR Agency Forest Laskin) and a bit of history, all at the base of the Post Office Tower. To older London cognoscenti it is an area famed for its erstwhile German Restaurant, Schmidt’s (the surly waiters, bad service, cheap prices and the mustachioed woman will have engraved themselves into many a fond memory!). Echoes abound of the rich and famous – those who have drunk at the Fitzroy Tavern (after which the area is named), and those who have lived there, including George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf. This eclectic little enclave, just minutes from Oxford Street has spawned some top novels that bring the area to life. (If you want more literary suggestions, then check out our blogpost on Literary London).
From the quintessential English author, Ian McEwan, comes this novel: “Saturday” …Lead character Henry Perowne is up very early one Saturday morning. He looks out of his window and sees a plane crashing. His day gets no better when he is assaulted, and with huge consequences that play out on his values and what he holds dear.
And we at TF are guessing that Henry makes his observations from Fitzroy Square. What do you think?
Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace: Jason is a former teacher, who now works as a journalist on a free newspaper. One day he sees an attractive woman with loads of bags trying to get into a taxi. He endeavours to help and as she is driven away he realises he is still clutching her camera. In order to try and return it he has the photos developed and gradually realises he has fallen for her….
If you like Nick Hornby, then you are very likely to like this book too!
Tina for the TripFiction Team