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Extraordinary things about London that you may not know

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Central London traffic moves at the same speed as when there were carriages and horses.

40% of London is green, which is why London is trying to become a national park

Half a million mice live on the London Underground

Big Ben should actually be called “The Clock Tower” or “Elizabeth Tower”, while “Big Ben” is the name of the bell

When we think of London we think of rain, but in reality the annual rainfall in London is lower than in Rome and Naples

The first traffic light in the world was put in London in 1868 but unfortunately it exploded after a month

Until 1994 there were no “Roads” in the City of London. Now there is only one, Goswell Road, which became part of the City in 1994 after the borders were changed. There are many lanes, streets and ways instead.

Aldgate Station was built over a plague-time mass grave and has thousands of bodies buried underneath.

Each week the London Underground escalators travel twice the circumference of the Earth

Most of the London Underground is above ground although it is commonly referred to as the Underground

Among the many things that Londoners have forgotten on the subway are a samurai sword,  a human skull, several false legs and a coffin.

You can put the Statue of Liberty or the Pyramid of Giza inside the O2 Arena

London has more Indian restaurants than any city in India

It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing an armour

The red telephone box at the entrance to the Royal Academy is the original prototype, designed by architect Giles Gilbert Scott in 1924

The first design for St Paul’s dome was practically in the shape of a pineapple

Worked in many sectors including recruitment and marketing. Lucky to have found a soulmate who was then taken far too soon. No intention of moving on and definitely not moving to Thailand for the foreseeable future. Might move forward. Owned by a cat.

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History

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – a pub with a literary history

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Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Grade 11 listed building at 145 Fleet Street, City of London. There has been a public house at this location since 1538, when Henry V111 was the monarch.  It was called the Horn and like many city pubs burnt down in the Great Fire of London 1666,  but was swiftly rebuilt the following year. The pub is a short walk (about 700 yards) away from both St Pauls Cathedral and Blackfriars tube station. 
 
Photo: © Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
 
There is a single narrow entrance to a building that is deceptively small as it extends up to four storeys. The lack of natural light is evocative of its past history, as a cosy meeting place for famous literary figures.  Charles Dickens liked to sit at a table right of the fireplace on the ground floor, opposite to the bar. The pub is thought to have been referred to in “A Tale of Two Cities” as a dining place for Charles Darnay.   Robert Lewis Stevenson, Antony Trollope, and P. G Wodehouse all referred to the pub by name.  In “The Dynamiter”  Stevenson writes that ‘a select society at the Cheshire Cheese engaged my evenings”.  In Anthony Trollope’s novel “Ralph the Heir”,  one of the characters, Ontario Moggs, is described as speaking “with vigour at the debating club at the Cheshire Cheese in support of unions and the rights of man…”
P G Wodehouse on at least one occasion preferred to dine there, rather than at his club The Garrick. Agatha Christie wrote that her fictional detective Poirot dined with a new client at the Cheshire Cheese in her 1924 story, “The Million Dollar Bank Robbery” adding a description of “the excellent steak and kidney pudding of the establishment.” Oysters and Larks were also on the menu served up in pies. 
 
The Rhymers Club was a group of London-based poets, founded in 1890 by W. B. Yeats and Ernest Rhys. They met as a dining club at the Cheshire Cheese, producing anthologies of poetry in 1892 and 1894.
The founding meeting of the Medical Journalists Association took place at the Cheshire Cheese on 1 February 1967. At that time, doctors who wrote articles under their own name could be reported to the General Medical Council. From an initial membership of 48, the MJA now represents around 500 journalists, broadcasters and editors.
 
Last by not least, the pub had a famous parrot, whose death on October 30th 1926 was marked by worldwide obituaries.  Polly, a grey parrot, of unknown gender, passed out on Armistice night in 1918, exhausted from imitating the popping of champagne corks.  The bird was in the habit of addressing customers as “Rats” and placed orders with instructions to “Hurry Up!” Deservedly Polly holds pride of place as a Stuffed Parrot in the Bar. 

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Books

The historic Kensington pub where Dickens and DH Lawrence used to drink

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A traditional pub in South Kensington, famous for being patronised by Charles Dickens (who lived on this street at number 11 for a while) and DH Lawrence.

Even now it is a pub that is often packed with people in the evening and you won’t always find a seat if you don’t eat. If you want to experience the atmosphere of a historic pub but without the crowds, you can do it in the afternoon when you will also find a seat.

Charles Dickens used to drink in this pub

The pub also offers food and has a garden for nice days or you could go downstairs where you can find tables to eat in an area not too crowded. To get there you have to find a side door. The menu is typical of a pub, but if you are passing through and want to have traditional fish & chips or a pie with a pint of beer, this is a great place to do it. It is not far from the museums of South Kensington so we are in an area where many tourists will be passing through.

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Travel

In Hampshire looking for Jane Austen

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Many people when they think of Jane Austen, they think of Bath, in fact, the well-known British writer lived for 25 years in the county of Hampshire.

This county appears relatively little in her novels, but if you go to Hampshire, you can visit some places related to the writer. In particular we can visit a museum dedicated to her which is located in a small brick cottage where the writer lived from 1809 to 1817.

This after having lived in Southampton and Bath. Clearly these larger places gave her ideas and inspiration that she would not have had in the country but it is only after returning to a quiet place that Jane Austen resumed writing.

The museum is located in Chawton and you can still see the original furniture such as the desk where Austen àwrote some of her works.

Edward, the writer’s brother had become rich and while Austen frequented wealthy circles, she was not from a wealthy family. The brother lived nearby and visiting him meant frequenting a wealthy and fashionable environment. His brother’s house still stands today and is called Chawton House, a 16th century Tudor-style house.

The house now houses in its library a collection of books written by women if you go just outside the house of St Nicholas church you will see the graves of Austen’s mother and sister. If you want to continue your Jane Austen tour in Hampshire you can take the scenic railway called Watercress Line to Aston where the Jane Austen festival is held every June. Aston was where Austen used to shop regularly.

The Vyne is a house definitely worth visiting, it is  located near Basingstoke and was a house from the Tudor times, where Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon and many others also stayed. Jane Austen was a friend of the family who lived here at the time and therefore she used to come often and participate in the dances and other social gatherings.

Jane had to leave her beloved cottage when her health deteriorated and so she went to live in Winchester to be near her doctors. That is why her grave is in Winchester Cathedral. Originally her grave did not say she was a writer because all of her books were published anonymously when she was alive

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