Monday 25 January 2010

24 Hours London - Marsha Moore

I've been to London loads of times and have even guided groups of camera-clicking foreign language students and French schoolkids around the main tourist sites several times, so I wasn't really expecting to learn anything particularly new or different in this London guide. Well, how wrong could I be ? Marsha Moore uncovers little known gems way off the tourist track that even most of the locals probably don't know about.

Who would have imagined the existence of the London Necropolis Railway or the Cafe in the Crypt at St Martin in the Fields Church ? Who would have thought of visiting the Victorian Pet Cemetery in Hyde Park or the Old Operating Theatre Museum ? Who would have dreamed of having a caviar hair mask or a gold-leaf waxing ? Other amazing discoveries that only those with inside knowledge could possibly know about are an Oxfam store that specialises in second-hand designer labels and the number of the bus route that will give you a great view of the main monuments at a fraction of the cost of the tourist tourbuses (number eleven, in case you were wondering !).

The gimmick that has turned into the major selling-point of this guide is its structure, with the excursions divided into hour-by-hour slots throughout the day, as opposed to the usual classification by geographical location or theme. Despite its compact size, it's packed full of interesting and often surprising ideas for things to do in London, although, since each idea is condensed into one short paragraph, you'll have to go to the websites indicated to look up all the important information like opening times and admission prices yourself. I was also slightly disappointed to begin with at the total lack of photographs ,but to include them would have more than doubled the number of pages, due to the sheer number of ideas presented.

I love the one-page, at-a-view lists of themed activities, such as "24 hours with the family", "24 hours of romance" or "24 hours of luxury", which provide a quick way of finding activities suited to your needs without trawling through the whole book. Sitting down and reading through the descriptions is half the fun though, and even armchair-travellers who have no intention of ever setting foot inside the city will still spend a few enjoyable hours being virtual tourists.

Tourism and travel aside, the book is also full of fascinating nuggets of information. Before looking through the guide, I never knew, for example, that the expression "in the clink" came from the Clink Prison.

However well you know the city, sit down with a highlighter pen and I guarantee you'll be marking things to see and do that have tickled your fancy. Just don't expect to manage to fit them all in one 24-hour period though because you'll end up with a long list !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £9.99

Paperback: 222 pages
Publisher: Prospera Publishing; 1st edition (4 Nov 2009)
ISBN-10: 0956122299
ISBN-13: 978-0956122292

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