I’m sure you know someone who knows absolutely everything there is know about a certain subject. Maybe they know the lyrics to every Herman’s Hermits’ song or perhaps they have the complete collection of figgy puddy trading cards. Whatever their area of expertise is, they can be annoying, can’t they? Every time you bring something up, they immediately shoot it down with their wealth of knowledge on a particular subject. Kind of makes you wonder why you are friends with them in the first place, doesn’t it?
Well, for those individuals who have friends who claim to know London extraordinarily well, I may have a few nuggets of knowledge to put them in their place. Anyone who knows this great city of London also knows she has her secrets and guards them quite well. So let me hand you the key to unlock five of the best secret spots the Big Smoke has to offer.
In most cases, people tend to believe they know what is best based upon the time they have spent rather than knowledge they have gained from experiencing something. This point will come clear when you ask a Londoner for directions. Ask ten people and ten people will be glad to tell you how to get there when eight of those ten haven’t the slightest idea what they are talking about nor the best way to get there.
It is one of those things engrained in the people of London. They simply know the best way to get there whether they do or not. If that made you smile, you must be from London.
I sometimes feel that a tourist bumbling their way along with a map might be able to find a better way to get to a destination than a true Londoner.
But we aren’t talking about directions necessarily, are we? No, indeed a map won’t be able to show us the secrets, those mysterious locales that folks might have heard about but never experienced. Well, for those places, please read on.
1. La Cabina
What do Londoners typically expect to experience in a phone booth? Perhaps make a few calls because your mobile is on the fritz? Or maybe you’re heavy into cosplay and want to practice your Superman changing technique inside of one. Aside from those two things, what else are you going to do in a phone booth?
What if I were to suggest that if you were to key in the correct password, an entire secret pub would be revealed to you? You must suggest I was mad or perhaps too indulgent with my watching of James Bond films. Believe it or not, the pub is real.
It’s okay if you don’t believe me. I didn’t believe it at first either. Just go to Kingsland Road and find the telephone booth with ‘La Cabina’ on it and dial 2580.
2. The Wretched Pump
For all those who failed history, I’ll remind you that London suffered a horrible cholera epidemic back in 1854. It nearly wiped out the capital and completely decimated Soho. In less than one week 10% of London’s population died.
Creepy as it sounds, Dr. John Snow (not related to the John Snow of GOT sad to say) tracked down the source of the cholera to a water pump which still stands today. That’s right. Come see the very water pump that nearly wiped-out London. You’ll know which one it is because it stands directly across the street from a pub named after the good doctor.
3. The Resting Clown
No, this is not a play on the Stephen King book, but rather a grave marker for the very first clown. It is in London and marks Joseph Grimaldi’s final resting place. He was studied by actors to the point that all clowns who followed in Joseph Grimaldi’s footsteps were known as Joeys.
He had many quotes in his time but one of the most lasting is ‘I am grim all day, but I make you laugh at night’.
In case you’d like to be a Joey or just pay your respects, you can find his grave near King’s Cross on a side street.
4. The Walls Have Noses?
The old saying that the walls have ears doesn’t exactly ring true for one particular wall in Westminster. No, in fact there are no ears to be had. Rather there is a nose sticking out of the wall.
I have no idea but there is a legend surrounding it. Supposedly, this is a spare nose for the statue of Nelson.
But that’s just a legend.
The facts of the case are that the nose was part of an exhibit designed to pretest against the use of CCTV cameras in London. Believe want you want but don’t you think the spare nose was a better story? Yeah, I thought so too.
5. Blind Spot
Without thinking about it say the first word that comes to mind when I ask what’s better than tea? Well, some of your answers were ridiculous. The answer is of course alcohol. Now, imagine combining alcohol and tea consumption with incredible live jazz? Perfection, right? Well, while this place does exist it is kept hidden much like Shangri-La. It’s secreted away beneath St. Martin’s Hotel. If you go to the hotel and head to the boutique tea counter and take a look behind it. When you see the golden hand stretching toward you, shake it firmly and a secret passage will open for you to enter.
How often do we look up as we walk about the Big Smoke? Not very often, right? Well, then you would likely miss the Webb Patent Sewer Gas Lamp. Yes, it means what you think it means. This is a gas lamp that is powered by sewer gas.
Some say it is meant to keep the methane gas of the sewer from building up to dangerous levels but it’s doubtful. Head down to the Savoy Hotel and have a look around. You’ll find it. Or smell it. Or both.