The London Only Tourists See


Another good day for a London walk, this time to check out some central London backstreets that few Londoners bother using, mainly because they don’t lead anywhere useful. The only people you see here are tourists examining city guides.

Starting from home I walked to Clerkenwell, cutting through Holborn, with a stop for a good breakfast in The Queen’s Head, now renamed, rather horribly, ‘Coco Momo’. Getting off Oxford Street was a priority, as the entire route is dug up for the cross rail project, and is nightmarishly overcrowded.

In Selfridge’s basement I had my handwriting analysed by a very nice graphologist called Julie, who decided I was ‘outgoing, gregarious, strong-willed, creative’, and then cut into the parts of Mayfair I rarely see. First up was this unnoticed monument to the father of Italian democracy – of course, I didn’t make a note of the street name.

These are of a quiet little park, church and mansion blocks just behind South Audley Street, where there is also a public library.

In South Audley Street itself is the home of Goode & Co, who have some astonishing modern glass sculptures for sale, including one that looked like an immense still pool of water – if you have around twenty grand to spare. Here’s the interior of the traditional part.

The part of Mayfair between Mount Row and the Connaught has been sculpted with a lake of lights and trees, and looks a bit like a Victorian film set – it’s very pretty but rather dead, the sort of view you expect when exiting a posh hotel.

From here down to Piccadilly is interesting because the blocks used to be owned by the major estates, so you’ll find an entire city block derelict at one go. The great aristocratic estates of Grosvenor, Cadogan, de Walden, Portman and Bedford, together with the Crown Estate and the City of London, have survived 300 years and still control the lion’s share of Central London.

The second half of the walk follows tomorrow.

4 comments on “The London Only Tourists See”

  1. Gretta says:

    A quick Google suggests the Mazzini plaque might be at Laystall Street. Does that sound right?

    Looking forward to tomorrow’s installment!

  2. jan says:

    Did u notice the mounds in the park near the public library ?

    ALSO near the spot where the Mazzini plaque is sited theres a cafe with a large basement area which links in with the adjacent properties its on the corner if i remember correctly – i know the whole place is full of little italians caffs and its hard to distinguish one from the other but the one i am thinking abouts you can walk through the basements and end up more than halfway down the street. Mayfair and Soho are both like that the buildings are linked into each other in all sorts of strange ways and theres no set boundary walls between properties i found this more in these areas of London than anywhere else in the capital

  3. Helen Martin says:

    “you can walk through the basements and end up more than halfway down the street.” That is almost unbelievable. You can go down one place & come up another? Why hasn’t this turned up in B&M? or Sherlock Holmes?

  4. Helen Martin says:

    I wonder if Terry Pratchett had these basements in mind for the interconnected basements in Ankh-Morpork and I got to read a whole chapter of Sourcery checking the spelling of that city.

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