Saturday, 31 January 2009

Favourite Places in London

Even when I'm not on the road, I like to keep up-to-date with what's happening in the world of travel. Fortunately, London has some great places for this, so here are some of my favourites:

(NB: Always open to suggestions and new ideas!)

Stanfords Bookshop
(12-14 Long Acre, London, WC2E 9LP, Tel: 020 7836 1321, E-Mail:

First choice of all good Victorian Explorers, Stanfords' is the original travel bookshop. You can virtually feel their ghosts on your shoulder as you browse. (Note: no, I'm not saying that the place is haunted!). In addition to books about everywhere you've heard of and many places you haven't, they stock maps, nautical charts, atlases and have a great selection of to-die-for globes. (There's one costing in excess of £400 which would look great in my flat...thanks)

Verdict: The first port of call for planning any big trip

Royal Geographical Society

(1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR)

When the Victorian ghosts aren't hanging out at Stanfords, they come to the RGS to see their names and pictures on show here. You need to be a member (or accompany a member) to attend the Monday evening lectures, but there are non-Society events and exhibitions too. Personally I like to think of Livingstone, Shackleton et al chewing the fat here over a few pints of ale.

Verdict: Think you're adventurous? Think again.

83 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4QW, Tel. 0207 224 2295, E-Mail:

Daunt's oak galleries and skylights cheer up even the bleakest of London days. Truly designed for travellers who love books and travel writing, don't miss the second-hand collection on the balcony. Marylebone High Street also has a fabulous selection of shops, delicatessens and bistros, for that post-book shopping caffeine fix.

Verdict: If only life on the road were this stylish

The Travel Bookshop
(13-15 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, London W11 2EE, Tel. 020 7229 5260, E-Mail:

Yes, the very bookshop where Hugh Grant worked in the film Notting Hill. Sadly, I have been there many times and have never had the pleasure of his company! (As far as I know, Julia Roberts is not a regular customer either).

This small bookshop focuses on quality rather than quantity. There is a great range of literature, as well as guide books. Many of the photography books would make great presents. Worth a browse if you're in the area, worth a special trip if you're not.

Verdict: Does what it says on the tin.

The Travel Bookshop is opposite:

Books For Cooks
(4 Blenheim Crescent, London W11 1NN, Tel. 020 7221 1992, E-Mail:

Ok, so perhaps not strictly travel-related. BUT, with books on international cookery, what better place to learn how to recreate that Thai curry, Indian bread or Moroccan tagine? So I've included it. They also run workshops and will post books anywhere in the world.

(Quaintly, their opening hours are Tues-Sat AND they close for a "Congé Annuel" in August every year and over Xmas/New Year. Advisable to check before you make a special trip!)

Verdict: Eclectic and inspiring. But why the cheesecake fascination?

Words and Pictures © Louise Heal 2009

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