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City Secrets London [Turtleback]

Robert Kahn , Tim Adams
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 1 2001 City Secrets
The travel advice in City Secrets London comes directly from the personal recommendations of those who know the city most intimately: writers, critics, artists, and producers. By following these in-the-know recommendations, any traveler will extend well beyond the normal tourist experience to discover a private city rich in personal history. The secret energy of London is discovered not only through details on new, hip locations, but also by exploring the favorite hidden hangouts of historical personalities. Read this book and take an unsuspecting friend along for the trip, they'll be impressed by your cool and by your insider knowledge.

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From Amazon

City Secrets: London is the third book in the intriguing City Secrets series, published by the Little Bookroom, an American sister company of Granta. The idea behind the books was to develop an anecdotal guide by London's writers, artists, historians and designers and to reveal favourite hidden corners as well as giving new insights on well-known places.

As in the much-acclaimed City Secrets: Rome and City Secrets: Florence, Venice and the Towns of Italy, the quirkiness and individuality of the approach pays dividends here. The biographer and critic Fiona McCarthy gives a cogent and evocative essay about the Freud Museum in Finchley where Freud lived after his last-ditch flight from the Nazis, while interior decorator David Mlinaric is equally intriguing discussing London Underground design, which he conjures in an essay that will send readers out to discover the work of Eric Gill and Eduardo Paolozzi (whose mosaic murals may be found at Tottenham Court Road station). And journalist Ruth Pavey will have many of us up at 4am visiting Hampstead Heath to enjoy the dawn chorus and the bat walks: hers is one of the most fascinating essays in this invaluable little book. Part of the appeal of this series is its steadfast refusal to visit well-trodden paths; where it intersects with the more familiar guidebooks, there is always an idiosyncratic approach that marks it out as something much more interesting. --Barry Forshaw

From the Back Cover

Tour London in the company of its most thoughtful observers.

Beyond the public London of pomp and circumstance exists a private London that endlessly inspires its artists and writers. Infused with the spirit of history and literature--yet undeniably of-the-moment--the city's loveliest old corners and hippest new addresses are now revealed: the lopsided 17th-century premises of the wine merchant who supplies claret to the Queen; Oscar Wilde's favourite restaurant; a barge trip by canal to Camden Market; a connoisseur's afternoon.

Church Row, Hampstead NW3 tube: Hampstead

The best walk in London is down Church Row in NW3. After his exile and disgrace as the boyfriend of Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Douglas lived here, though I don't know at which number. You could ring all the bells and ask. At the end of the road there is a ravishing little graveyard to the right which contains the remains of Hugh Gaitskell, Kay Kendall, Anton Walbrook (the ringmaster from La Ronde) and Joan Collins's mother. Our Lady guards Beerbohm Tree. To the left, in the grounds of the church itself, you will find the grave of John Harrison--immortalised by Michael Gambon in the TV film of Longtitude. You will also get an extraordinary view south towards the river. Then you should head on to Frognal, turn right, and at 99 you will find the house where General de Gaulle lived as leader of the Free French throughout the Second World War. I find it heartstopping to think of him here, directing the French war effort from a house in Hampstead. Of course if you want to follow the theme of the Resistance, you then have to go to the French House in Soho (49 Dean Street W1) to see where de Gaulle's juniors all ate and drank. But, for me, the pub will never be as evocative as the big, leafy house in North London. David Hare, Playwright


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4.0 out of 5 stars Hot tips from old hands.... Nov. 27 2002
Format:Turtleback
LONDON CITY SECRETS is a little book of good places to visit the next time you're in England. The authors describe their book as a "highly subjective" collection of recommendations, not an all-inclusive list of places to eat, sleep, visit in London. The folks making the recommendations are artists, writers, historians, and others who live and work in London. They share favorite spots to eat; favorite paintings, sculptures or museums; favorite walks, historical houses and other spots discovered over the years.
LONDON CITY SECRETS is divided into 13 areas: 1/ Trafalgar Square, Soho and Covent Garden; 2/ St James, Westminster, & the Embankment; 3/ Hyde Park & Chelsea; 4/ Oxford Street and Mayfair; 5/ Regent's Park & Camden Town; 6/ Bloomsbury & King's Cross; 7/ Islington & Clerkenwell; 8/ The City (of London); 9/ The South Bank; 10/ Notting Hill & The West; 11/ Hampstead & The North; 12/ The East End & Beyond; and 13/ South of the River.
Because the selections are subjective, the National Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum are mentioned, whereas the National Maritime Museum is not. Fortnum and Mason is included, Mark's & Spencer is not. Scrubb's prison is listed, the Tower of London is not. Plenty of good places to eat are listed, no good places to sleep are included. Never thought you'd visit Islington? You might find yourself eating at the Smithfield Market, Moro's, or the Quality Chop House. Think the East End is a dump? You might discover a science fiction ride on the nighttime tube.
Symbols are placed next to sites with London Underground stops and places to eat. Plenty of bars, pubs, and other assorted oddball watering holes are included. The various authors, artists, etc. also recommend plenty of additional reading material about favorite spots. LONDON CITY SECRETS is eccentric, esoteric, and entertaining.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's no secret. This is a little gem. Nov. 5 2002
Format:Turtleback
LONDON, of the City Secrets series of travel guides, is a little gem that will easily fit into a pocket of your travel vest as you set out to explore what is arguably the world's greatest city.
This volume, small in size but rich in information, divides Britain's capital into thirteen areas according to a scheme that escapes me. However, no matter. Each area, e.g. Hyde Park & Chelsea, The City, Oxford Street & Mayfair, or The East End & Beyond, is preceded by a map on which is marked each point of interest included in that section. And what you will find are both famous and little-known museums, historic buildings, art galleries, libraries, shops, pubs, churches, eateries, parks, squares, streets, memorials, and gardens. Each includes, at least, an address or location and the name of the nearest Underground or rail station. If relevant, there's also a phone number and/or the date the place was founded or constructed. The core of each listing is a short descriptive commentary by a contributing journalist, architect, philosopher, playwright, professor, author, historian, poet, curator, or some other professional of similar dignity. At the end of the book are an Index of Recommended Reading and an Index of Contributors. What you won't find are budget hotels, American fast-food franchises, newsagents, or 24-hour chemists (pharmacies) reviewed by backpacking college students, traveling salesmen, lorry drivers, or tourists from the Midwest. This is a genteel publication.
LONDON is a delightful and uncommonly intelligent sightseeing resource for those of us who've been to the city often enough to have exhausted the usual tourist activities and are left with making silly faces at the Buckingham Palace guard to try and crack his reserve.
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Format:Turtleback
This new series is indeed a revelation: I bought "City Secrets London" after being most impressed with "Rome" and "Venice, Florence and Italian Cities", and London edition did not disappoint.
In the world where simplification is all the rage, these little books seem like a welcome greeting from a bygone era. "No nonsense" books they are not: some people may call these guides unashamedly elitist. Most of the contributors seem so knowleadgeable that many readers may feel the whole content is too high-brow for them. I would be disappointed if this impression were to scare readers off. However, author's decision not to dumb down anything has to come at a cost, and if that cost is losing readers who expect a dumbed-down quick cheap-and-cheerful guide to London of Beefeaters and "Buckin'-Ham" Palace, so be it.
Please do not mistake this for a proper guide which will give you general getting-around, hotels, eating-out and tourist highlight guidance. For this, you'll be better off with Eyewitness London. City Secrets is for people who basically know the city but want to find out little quirky things that other people miss (quite predictably and justifiably, because not everyone has time for in-depth look).
City Secrets is all about the stuff that all really good human guides use: nuggets of information, crafty access to places, best-view routes and other things which make all the difference between an average guided tour and a really memorable experience.
Contrary to what many casual travellers believe, London - although not blessed with relaxed Parisian charm or haunting and menacing spell of Florence - can be very cosy, friendly and pleasing to the eye and to the soul. If you think you like London and if you are likely to visit the city more than once in your life, you'll definitely need this book.
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