Saturday, 10 May 2014

Little London by Sunshine Jackson and Kate Hodges

I have never really been one for travel. When I was little, families didn't really do travel in the way that they do now.  Very few of my friends went abroad, and if any of us did it was pretty much to the bits of Spain that are like hot England. I once made my parents laugh by saying that I wanted to go somewhere "cold and interesting". I now realise that that pretty much sums Britain up, so I was probably born in just the right place.  My disillusion with hot foreign holidays springs mainly from the fact that sand sets my teeth on edge and gives me goosebumps, which makes the beach pretty much a no-go area for me.

I've always thought that surely the point of travel is to go to some out-of-the-way places and see what the country is actually like for the people that live there.  Which is, of course, really quite hard to do somewhere where you don't know where the people go, or where the interesting out-of-the-way places are. However, for me, my best holidays have been to places where I have been able to return and visit places more than once, to feel that I know the place a little more deeply.

Luckily, we are able to visit one of the world's most interesting cities, London, regularly. We are able to do so as tourists, since, in London we don't have school or work or anywhere really to be at any set time.  Bliss.

The last time we were in London, at Easter, I was talking to a local Mum on the bus about the play area at the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (which is excellent by the way), and saying how impressive it is, and all for free, of course.  "Hmmm," she said "normally you get nothing for free in London!". Now, OK.  I know London is ridiculously expensive to live in. However, I really don't think it's fair to say that there is nothing to do for free in London.  There is plenty if you know what you're looking for, and where to look. This is why I have an entire shelf of guides to London. Some give specific walking routes, some give broad-based ideas for activities, others are more explicitly touristy type guides.

This book appealed because it is cheap and newly published (which means that the info about opening hours etc is likely to be up to date). My first thought was "Sunshine? Really?" Once I'd got over this ridiculous and unnecessary prejudice, I was struck by the fact that I liked the weight of the pages, and the pictures, both of which are reassuringly expensive looking. (NB the book is relatively expensive on Amazon, but cheap as chips with the Book People).

It's ONLY downside as a travelogue is that it's quite heavy, and not ideal for stashing in your bag.  My favourite London guide for bag stashage is Dorling Kindersley's Eyewitness London Family Guide, which I picked up for virtually no money in The Works, and is excellent.

What is fantastic about Little London is that it is written by people who have lived the life they are writing about.  They have invested a great deal of time and energy finding things to do for little or no money in and around London.  You can tell they know what they are talking about.

Also, it's arranged by month. If, like us, you are seasonal visitors to our great capital, you can turn to the relevant chapter to find things that you might not have known about that may be happening during your visit. For example, the Imagine Children's Festival always fits in with February half-term, and is well worth a visit.

I've already added a few activities to my extensive to-do list. A must-buy for Londoners with children, or those who are regular visitors.

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